Thursday, April 18, 2024

Le Tour de France 2009 – Second Rest Day


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“Armstrong redescend sur terre,” says the headline in L’Equipe – ‘Armstrong brought back to earth at the Le Tour de France 2009.’ Bert dominates the front page, smiling with his “smoking gun” finger held high – VeloVeritas says; “Chapeau, Bert!”

It was a late start for Martin and I today, but it let us get loose ends tied up and plans made.

“Rest day” is a bit of a misnomer, if you’re committed to what you do.

It would be easy to do a few phone interviews, or amble along to the nearest press conference, take some notes of the same quotes as everyone else is taking, then have a nice early dinner.

But if you want to do your best, that’s different.

We’re en route the Skil-Shimano press conference; we want to talk to their manager, Rudi Kemna about being the little fish in the big pool.

Le Tour de France 2009
It’s more of a low-key get-together than a press conference. Photo©Martin Williamson

We’re also meeting Orlando Van Den Bosche there; he’s the Schleck’s manager and has promised us a ‘two on two’ interview with the two stars – a nice coup, if we can wangle it.

Le Tour de France 2009
Rudi chats to Martin about the Skil team’s approach and attitude, they want to ride with ‘bravura’. Second Rest Day, 2009 Tour de France. Photo©Ed Hood

Much much later, we’re sat outside the hotel in a post fondue glow.

The Skil-Shimano gig was a good one, Rudi Kemna, the DS oozes enthusiasm and has good patter.

We had another chat with lanterne rouge, Kenny Van Hummel – he’s cool too.

Le Tour de France 2009
Ken might be last on GC, but he’s a bloddy good rider – a stage win at the Dunkirk 4-day and second at Schelderprijs this year shows that. Oh, and he’s rode 200 mountainous klicks on his own today, and still made the time cut! Photo©Martin Williamson

But the Schleck interview has gone from rock solid to a mirage.

We were meant to meet our Schleck contact at the Skil ‘do’ but that fell through and it ended up that we had to present ourselves at the Saxo hotel at 10:00 pm – one can imagine the thrill that les Freres Schleck would experience at two eejitz from Scotland arriving to interview them at 10:00 pm.

Stuck without our second piece of the day, we dived into the Silence-Lotto hotel, about 30 K down the road.

Le Tour de France 2009
Marc Sergeant still looks in great shape. Photo©Martin Williamson

Marc Sergeant is a good guy; eloquent in English and never ducking questions.

We also grabbed Big Hendrik Redant; we chatted to both of them about Cadel’s bad day and the last week of le Tour.

It transpires that old Hendrik is a lover of Scotland and visits our shores every year – it’s a small world!

Bon nuit!

Le Tour de France 2009
Ed and Hendrik talk about whisky and *that* criterium in Dunfermline in 1987. Photo©Martin Williamson

* * *

Al Hamilton

Manda Contador” Contador in charge is the headline this morning on the inside pages, but on the front cover we have “Contador, colosal en Verbier” a colossal, splendid or excellent Contador and as you might guess Alberto made all the TV news stations in Spain.

Le Tour de France 2009
Contador is now the leader for sure.

Alberto Contador;

“There is now no doubt who is the leader at Astana, it’s me…”

Have you won the Tour?

“Surely no. There is still the third week and many adversaries who have the strength to change things. The brothers Schleck have demonstrated they have it”.

What was it like to attack your idol?

“Nothing special. Armstrong is my idol, but it meant nothing at that moment, only the ride towards the line. Lance on paper is important for Astana.”

Armstrong;: “Alberto is the best in the Tour”. He also commented;

“I’m happy to be in second position overall to my “compañero” Contador.”

Andy Schleck: “Contador es un cohete” – Contador is a rocket and made a monstrous attack.

Cadel Evans: “Mi peor dia en el Tour”. My worst day in the Tour!

Bradley Wiggins is “El rey del velódromo que dejó la cerveza”. The king of the cycle track without beer. He was well known in The Duke of York pub in London for having a drink. With a diet and no beer he lost 7 kilos and now he is more agile in the mountains. AS thinks he will be the star of the new Sky team with Millar, Cavendish and Flecha.

Le Tour de France 2009
A lighter, sober Wiggins is doing wonders.

Carlos Sastre wants to win a stage in the Alps, he is 3 minutes and 52 seconds behind Contador and said: “Sunday has started a really hard last week”. He wasted a lot of energy chasing back to the leaders after the frenetic action from the Saxo Bank team earlier on the climb to Verbiers.

So that’s all the news from Spain on the last rest day, except for the photo of the podium girl at the Vuelta a Madrid on the back page of AS, just to remind you that the Tour isn’t the only race at the moment, also today I bumped into Neil Stephens and some riders of the Caisse d’Epargne checking out the big stage to the summit of the Aitana for this years Vuelta a España, so there is life after the Tour.

Le Tour de France 2009
AS’ back page.

Hasta Luego, Al.