Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Le Tour de France 2006 – Day 4: Stage 1, Strasbourg – Strasbourg


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Sunday, stage one — a day for the sprinters. It was quite late when I got to sleep, I had a coffee in the hotel after I came in from my pizza place, it was too strong for a wimp like me late at night and my efforts to nod-off were also seriously hampered by demented French men driving around Strasbourg blowing their car horns all night.

Apparently there’s some football tournament or other on the go?

I did my washing before bed last night and it was practically dry by morning. It’s no big deal washing stuff in the bath and it means you can carry a lot less clothing.

Breakfast up at the Ibis isn’t bad and I got to pour my own coffee this morning, plenty of hot milk, I can’t handle that strong, bitter stuff. I decide to go down to the Tour village first-up, I wanted ‘race colour’ shots.

I also had the notion to do a piece with Brad Wiggins and David Millar about their respective prologues.

It was the back of 8.00 when I got down to the village; it was set-up in the normally tranquil Park de l’Orangerie in central Strasbourg. The disco music was already pumping — Positive Force were letting everybody know that; ‘Bernaard’s [no, it’s not a typo, you can’t have cool black guys called Bernard, it’s Bernaard] got the Funk, he’s got the funk, yeah!’

Little old ladies walking tiny dogs and new-age-girls practicing their yoga did their best to ignore this intrusion to their Sunday morning.

Bob Sinclar, Barry White, Al Green, Gloria Gaynor all had their turn over the PA — I shut my eyes and for a minute I was in my 2.8 Capri — anyway! I got plenty of ‘colour’ shots — publicity girls, fan’s banners, girls on stilts, – yawn!

Thor Hushovd's Look TT bike.
Thor Hushovd’s Look TT bike.

A minor coup was finding Thor Hushovd’s new 595 carbon Look on the roof of the CA team car, which arrived really early.

A fellow anorak was agonising over Hushovd’s stem length, he was a Dutch guy from a technical magazine; ‘It’s not a 12, but I need to know if it’s a 13 or 14.’ When I plucked the tape measure from my bag, he just beamed — there WAS another man in Strasbourg as sad as he was; and it’s 14 cm if you are interested.

The new 595 is different from last year’s 585 in that it has a really nice fly-thru seat tube arrangement, an integral front mechanism hanger, new forks, new gear cable routings and a hiddenset with two sizes of bearings — the bigger ones at the bottom to take the loading.

He rides 53 x 39 on 11 — 21, Dura Ace, with a Sella Italia saddle, PRO bars and stem on Conti tyres.

My Dutch chum also told me that Hushovd is running ceramic hub bearings; at a cost of six or seven hundred euros.

Soon it was caravan time — bears and kangaroos are popular this year, but I did get a free Skoda hat of a rather nice lady; no sunstroke today. I waited patiently at the Cofidis bus for Bradley, snapping passing stars. I have an idea for a ‘raves from the grave’ Tour feature…

Hennie Kuiper.
Hennie Kuiper.

Anyway, today I bagged, Jaja, Hennie Kuiper, Johan Museeuw, Dirk Demol and Sean Kelly.

Bradley was an easy man to talk to. He said he was just glad to get the prologue over and done with and get into his first Tour. He’d found the first half very technical and had only been 45 th at the first check, but pulled it back to 16 th at the line.

I then high-tailed it up to the Saunier Duval bus to see if I could nab David Millar. Fortunately we have a mutual friend so that eased the intro, I didn’t get as much time with him as I would have liked, but he was OK with me and said that he’ll give me his time if I catch-up with him.

It’s just a hunch, but I think he’ll go OK in the Rennes time trial next week. He certainly looks in good nick.

The chaos at a stage start has to be seen to be believed, and that’s with hordes of stewards and police. I got away quickly after the start and drove the car back to the press room car park, set-up my laptop in the permanence so my place was safe then got the bike out and pedalled down to ride the last five kilometres of the stage.

It was flat, fast and windy with some scary bends including a cracker just before the red kite. If the Ormiston APR had the same finish, the Western General would have to open a new wing.

I took a sequence of photos and wrote notes so we could talk readers through the finale. It was baking-hot and I felt dehydrated after 15 k. never mind 184.

The finish line was the last pic, and then it was time to pedal back to the press room and start tapping. I wrote-up the stage finish piece first, emailed it off, sorted-out the pics to go with it then sent off a whole load of general pictures — maybe 60.

Thor’s velo was next-up and the pics to go with that, then finally the Brad/David piece, complete with pics.

Last but no means least, it was time to keep in touch with you dear readers in Bonnie Scotland, but its 8.00 pm now – can I go back to the digs – please?

PS – Hushovd’s in hospital, update you the morn.