Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Wore Layers in July!

Me on the "podium"

Today was a very exciting day in our le Tour de France adventures. We got up early this morning - 5:00 for me; had the alarm set for 5:30 but ended up awake at 5:00 - showered and ate breakfast and then met down in the lobby for our 8:00 a.m. departure. We were leaving Italy which means leaving hotels again and so everything had to be packed up and ready to go, including all the swag we scored yesterday. As mentioned in my last post, two of the teams stayed at our hotel last night and this morning the mechanics were getting everything ready, including the water bottles. The Omega Pharma Lotto guys were kind enough to give us girls a bottle which was filled with energy drink like Gatorade. A great souvenir and it has been a great drink today as I have been very thirsty. I was really thrilled with getting the water bottle it was a great start to a wonderful day.

Once we left the hotel we went to the departure village where there were all sorts of sponsor booths set up. We scored LOTS of swag. More hats, the green hands for the sprint, a bag, key chains, sausages. At the Skoda tent we girls scored some sunglasses and the guys received miniature cars. While at the Skoda tent, we ran into Robbie Venture who commentates on the “sidelines” if you will for Vs. He sat at the table next to us and I said, “Hey, Robbie Venutra, can I get my photo with you?” He said yes, and then I told him I watched him every day at home when I am at home, that is. I’m great at making conversation with famous people as you can tell.

Me and Robbie Ventura

Also while in this area we ran into the great Eddy Merckx. If you are not familiar with cycling, you may not know him, but he won the Tour de France five times and so I had my picture with him. I think he was less than thrilled, but he’ll get over it.

Me and Eddy

After a couple of hours in the start village, we went to the team busses where we still had exclusive access. I stalked the HTC bus for a while waiting on my man Cav but then missed him when I was getting a photo with a rider from Sauer. Our guide, Natalie knows a rider from Saur and so I got his autograph and a photo with him and also got the autograph of some other Saur riders. They are a wildcard team from France and I don’t really know any of them but it was still a good experience. Natalie also knows Antony Charteau who rides for Europcar, the team of Maillot Jaune wearer Little Tommy Voeckler. I got Anthony autograph as well and also a picture.

Anthony Charteau

We watched the riders coming and going and I managed to snag a few good photos and also got Mark Renshaw’s autograph. I bought this book at le Tour de France stand that has a place for autographs and I pointed out where he was to sign. This is how it went:

Me: “Can I have your autograph?”
MR: “Sure” Looking around as to where to sign.
Me: “You can sign right here where it says Mark Renshaw, because’ that’s you.”

I’m a genius, people, a genius I tell you.

Some of the others in the group got good photos of Fabian Cancellera and the Schlecks and I plan to get all of their photos downloaded to my computer before I leave here because some of their photos are great, especially on the stages where I’d rather just scream like an idiot than take photos.

After the riders took off, so did we. We took a different route than they did to get to the Col du Galibier. I had been looking forward to this all week and it did not disappoint. It has been snowing on the Galibier earlier in the week and we knew it would be cold. On the way, we stopped at a ski resort to have a sandwich for lunch and then we made our way to our designated parking spot and then walked up the Col a few meters until we found a spot in front of the French radio both. . No one was standing there and it ended up being a perfect spot. While waiting for the caravan, I had my photo taken with a French policeman which ended up being my favorite photo of the day. It cracks me up.

Wearing the new Skoda glasses
And the scarf Jackie gave me
And layers in JULY!!
Loving life!!

Soon the caravan came through and I got a … wait for it… polka-dot… hat! I know, I know, you thought I was going to say shirt. I was really hoping for a shirt, but they weren’t throwing those out yet. I think they throw them out really close to the summit and we were seven kilometers from the summit.

The Vs. booth with Phil and Paul was by wear we stood.
 Unfortunately I did not get a glimpse of them.

Once the caravan was through, we knew the riders wouldn’t be far behind and about an hour later, here they came. Leading the way was Andy Schleck – love that guy – with a man from Astana riding on his wheel. Andy ended up winning the stage which was super exciting because I really want him to win. The next group included Little Tommy Voeckler, Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans and then minutes later Alberto Contador who had been dropped. Sweet Mercy, I was thrilled! I really don’t want Alberto to finish on the podium and I think he probably lost it today.

Once the pelaton came through with my man Cav struggling in the rear (Bernie got a great photo by the way) we all began making our way back down the mountain to our parking spot. We got in the van and spent an hour and a half going down amongst other cars and cyclists who had ridden up to watch the stage. After the hour and a half of driving we stopped for dinner, which I didn’t think was very good and was overpriced, but c’est la vie, I suppose.

We are now back in the van driving to Grenoble where we will stay the next two nights. Tomorrow we will head to what I expect to be my favorite stage of the race, Alpe d’Huez! I cannot wait! We are taking the ski lift up to a chalet on one of the switchbacks from where we will watch the race on TV and then of course, venture outside when the riders get close. I bought a special t-shirt for this stage and I am excited to wear it tomorrow. I will probably only wear it for some photos because it will be cold there as well and I will be layering up once again.

I guess I didn’t really mention the weather on the Col du Galibier. It was probably in the high 30s to mid-40s with a breeze blowing. Very nice. Loved it! I layered up in July, people! In July! Never before has that been done by me! I was thrilled to see snow in July! I hate the heat so much. Wow! Snow and cold in July – that is a little slice of heaven.

Speaking of heaven, the Alps are gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous and when looking at those mountains, I don’t know how a person could not believe in God! What a magnificent creation!

That’s all the news for today. As for me personally, my sinuses are out of control, my ears are going nuts in the mountains and, my foot is still swollen and I still haven’t found a bank to exchange my currency but other than that I having a blast and wish this party could continue for a while longer but, sadly the Tour comes only once a year. Vive le Tour!

Me and Jimmy Engoulvent

It's Lars Bak!
Look at that smile!!


Jackie said...

Love love love it!! You take great pictures my friend. The french cops face is priceless and I am digging that scarf! The only exciting thing happening in Huntsville is the new Mellow Mushroom FINALLY opened it's doors this past Monday!! Love ya!

Erika said...

OH I am so glad you're having such a good trip!!! Loving all the pics :)

Anonymous said...

You look so happy. Like the pictures with the bikers.LOL Also feel like you are enjoying the fellow travelers.
Keep us up with all the new updates and pictures.
Jan Bell

george christensen said...

Nice reporting. You make a mistake common to Americans though--the mispelling of peloton. You're in good company. Lance's mother in her autobiography misspelled it too.