Friday, May 24, 2024

Le Tour de France – Day 4: Stage 16, Cuneo to Jausiers


HomeDiariesLe Tour de France - Day 4: Stage 16, Cuneo to Jausiers

Ah! The glamour of the Tour, sat in the toilet of the hotel room in Jausiers, word processing at 06.30 am. I’m in here so as not to disturb Martin, who needs his sleep to get us up to l’Alpe D’Huez in a couple of hours.

The BlackBerry lost it’s ability to send emails last night, so instead of my usual tapping away on the tiny key pad, here I am on a full size job — albeit one that’s perched on the edge of the shower tray as I sit on the you-know-what. But let’s talk about yesterday — is that a song title?

Its glorious today (Tuesday) the Volvo aircon is off, the windows are open and I’m sure that my washing on the back parcel shelf must be dry by now.

We said “Wow” a lot today.

We’re on the lower slopes of the Col de la Bonette-Restefonde, he highest pass in France at 2,802 metres, it was conquered by our own Robert Millar in 1993, he snaffled the big money prime at the top, and behind him were Indurain and Rominger.

That’s 5km away by road.

‘A little later’ — as they say… we’re high on the col now, we didn’t go all the way to the top so as we’d have room to manoeuvre, take pics and tuck in behind the convoy for a quick getaway.

It’s the roof of the world here, ringed with ranges which compete with each other to be the most savagely beautiful.

The Lombarde features impressive road engineering.

Talking of savage, the first climb of the day, the Lombarde (above) was all that, being used today for the first time in the Tour, it was hairpinned, steep and long. The word is that there’s a group clear — which includes TT winner Schumacher — but others, including Vandevelde are trying to bridge; but the surprising American has cracked and is loosing time.

We’ll soon see for ourselves.

We were at the Tour Village in Cuneo early today, largely to grab some decent food for breakfast — the hotel chow was dire.

Fresh fruit salad, sausages, rye bread, a little red wine and a freshly ground coffee were just the job.

If you’ve got to ask someone about Creds, you’d rather ask this young lady, no?

Martin does some ‘Daily Distraction’ shots, that’s the spot on the site where there are pics of attractive young ladies (example above!), I’m too old for that kind of stuff and would run the constant risk of arrest for stalking.

I’m much more comfortable with bicycles, and set off to shoot Stuey, Dario and Adam Hansen’s machines, to go with the interviews I did, yesterday.

Martin is also working on a story about PowerCranks (not the SRM ones, the clutched ones) — Dario Cioni gave us some great info yesterday — and we were meant to have words with David Mee-lar (that’s how you say it if you’re an American).

Millar is apparently fanatical about their correct use, but not, it would seem about talking about them — never mind, we’ll pester and crack him, we’ve got patience and persistence; you’ll never do this job if you don’t.

I grabbed some pics of heroes from the past; Ventoux winner, Eros Poli and l’Alpe D’Huez winner Dag Otto Lauritzen — they both look great and I resolve AGAIN, to get back on my bike!

Time to go — the early part of the stage was pan flat; when we were talking to Matt White yesterday, he said that if it was flat for the first ten kilometres or so the day after a rest day then he wouldn’t bother too much about going out on his bike.

But if there was climbing early, then he’d go out so as not to seize up when gravity started to bite the next morning.

The scenery on the Lombarde was spectacular, not as surreal as the Restefond, but stunning nonetheless.

The descent was fast and not too extreme, helped by a smooth, sticky surface.

The Roof of France.

If you were dropped on the Lombarde, then there was time to get back, but that sign at the bottom of the Restefond which says; “Sommet 25.5 kilometres” wouldn’t really help.

When the race got to us, it didn’t strike me as a ‘death race,’ none of the groups, large or small, looked ‘in the bucket,’ in fact, there was banter going on in the autobus.

Riders passed us in little groups.

As Dave would text me later; “a bit o’ a damp squeeb” (firework rendered useless by exposure to moisture).

The big looser was Vandevelde, he started the day at 30 seconds and ended it at 3-15. Menchov suffered a set back too, from 38 seconds to 1-13.

Adam Hansen looks composed near the top.

Kohl is the surprise, he looked very comfortable in his polka dot jersey yesterday, but he’ll have to make a move on the l’Alpe D’Huez stage to gain time, I don’t know much about him but can tell that he’s too small to be a top drawer tester and will loose time to Evans and Menchov.

Schleck is in the same boat, for all CSC’s strength, if Schleck doesn’t take time before the chrono, then Evans or Menchov will win.

Seb Lang exclaims when he sees there is still 3km to go; ‘f**k, we’re going up there.”. Photo©Martin Williamson

Matt White says that CSC will put Sastre up the road early to try and force Evans and Menchov to chase — whatever happens, it’s always an epic to l’Alpe D’Huez, talk to you after that. (But hopefully not from the loo!).