Monday, May 20, 2024

Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 16: Vaison-la-Romaine > Gap, 168km. Solo Win for Rui Costa


HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2013 – Stage 16: Vaison-la-Romaine > Gap, 168km....
Le Tour de France

We left Vaison-la-Romaine this morning on Stage 16, and we got to thinking; if you’re in love with the sport, sometimes it breaks your heart. I can remember sitting in my living room watching Bjarne Riis and Luc Leblanc squabble by the roadside about whether the race should continue during the ‘Festina Tour’ – a race ultimately won by Marco Pantani.

Tears were close; ‘what are they doing to the Tour?’ I remember thinking.

Riis, Leblanc and Pantani – God rest his soul – have all since been proved to be cheats on a monumental scale.

And it’s my sincere wish that Mr. Riis has taken a trip to Damascus since those horrible days and that his modus operandi are very different from those of 15 years ago.

When I think back to those days, it just underlines why Chris Froome is taking such a mauling from the media.

We believed our eyes back then; and even more so during Armstrong’s reign – in 2013 if it looks too good to be true then like The Who said, ‘We Won’t Get Fooled Again.’

I don’t actually have a belief about the validity of Froome’s performances; my heart has been broken too many times to be shouting from the roof tops about how impressive he is – but I truly hope that it’s all down to his big ‘motor’ and marginal gains.

But all of that said, there are the times when the sport is so uplifting, when your heart is gladdened and you think; ‘I love this sport.’

Jack Bauer does that to me.

Jack Bauer is still the same big, friendly guy we first met at the Belgian kermises years ago. Photo©Martin Williamson

I can well remember our resident prophet/talent scout/mentor Viktor ringing me a few summers ago; ‘there’s this New Zealand laddie winning kermises in Flanders – you better give him a shout.’

I duly tracked young Jack down to ‘The Farm’ outside Gent where he lived in Spartan accommodation but was grabbing podium place after podium place in the kermises.

I remember him being somewhat bemused by our interest in him and his sincerity and politeness.

The rest is history, as they say.

He signed with Endura as a result of their seeing us waxing lyrical about him so much.

To introduce himself, he promptly beat experienced hard men Hayden Roulston and Julian Dean to the 2010 New Zealand Elite Road Race Championship; 2011 he won a stage in the Tour of Utah beating Elia Viviani to the line; last year saw him move to Garmin and be part of the their winning TTT squad in Qatar and the Giro; and this year he’s on the biggest stage there is if you’re a bike rider – Le Tour de France.

We met him at the Garmin bus, yesterday morning. He looks a million dollars, tall, tanned, handsome, exuding good health and quiet confidence.

Ed catches up with Jack and hears his thoughts on his first Tour. Photo©Martin Williamson
Jack has all the time in the world for the Kiwis who’ve taken the time to travel to the race. Photo©Martin Williamson

Before he spoke to us, he apologised and headed over to the little knot of Kiwi fans to chat, sign autographs and get pictures taken.

The consummate, grounded, friendly, accessible professional – not like some we could mention.

It was great to see him and hear what he had to say about le Tour.

When asked how it compares to the Giro, he smiled, shook his head and told us; ‘it’s a different level, faster, more aggressive, there’s more on the line – on Bastille Day the French guys were giving their all.’

We didn’t get all the time we’d have liked with Jack – we had a PR person hovering – but it was marvellous to see him and made me remember why I love the sport.

Would I vouch for Jack Bauer? – one hundred percent.

OK, I’ve wiped the tear from my eye and will now tell you a little more about Tuesday on Le Tour.

The start was the usual mass of people frying under a hot sun – we parked next to a Sky Jaguar, say what you like about the team but they do have nice cars.

Brian Holm style icon. We’ve heard him described as a cross between a wookie and a U-boat commander. Photo©Ed Hood

And whilst Brian Holm is a nice guy, a hard ex-pro and a bit of a sage, what’s with the ‘Chewbacca look’?

The last time we saw him was at the British Champs and the warm weather in France seems to have encouraged the growth.

GreenEDGE mechanic Craig Geater tells us where the Di2 batteries are hidden. Photo©Ed Hood

Ace mechanic Craig Geater always has time for us over at GreenEDGE, he was telling us that they’ve had very few hassles with the Scotts during the Tour.

Where’s the Di2 battery?’ we asked.

They’re in the seat posts, longer and cylindrical in shape it looks so much nicer when the battery is tucked away – charging is through the control box.

Craig sorts Ed’s clothing problem out in no time. Photo©Martin Williamson

Craig also wields a mean pair of scissors – wheeching the sleeves off my T-shirt for me to increase my cooling surfaces.

We said ‘hi’ and ‘congratulations’ on his yellow jersey to Daryl Impey before heading over to Garmin to see Jack.

We blether to yellow jersey winner Daryl Impey before sign-on. Photo©Martin Williamson

JV has gone down the facial hair route – we’ll make no comment, we want to be able to continue interviewing his riders.

Jonathan Vaughters has grown out his pointy whiskers. Photo©Martin Williamson

And there was home interest, our compatriot Jez from ‘the washing machine post’ blog was rail hanging at Garmin and chatting to Martin.

Martin spots a Saltire and chats to Jez and his kids. Photo©Ed Hood

Dan Martin was looking relaxed; so was big Ryder Hesjedal, happy to give interviews and chat to Canadian fans whilst David Millar looked distant and enigmatic.

(‘Exactly the look I was after, Davide.’)

Boy Van Poppel on the turbo in 34 degrees heat before the stage start, under the watchful gaze of team DS Hilaire. Photo©Martin Williamson

The Vacansoleil boys warmed up on the turbos – so as not to get caught out if it’s a warp drive start – meanwhile Cuddles smiled and Johnny Hoogerland looked cool as beans.

Cadel Evans tries to get away from the Aussie fans. Photo©Martin Williamson
Johnny Hoogerland heads to the sign-on. Photo©Martin Williamson

On the subject of not wanting caught out by a fast start, we saw several riders out on the parcours, loosening those legs, just in case.

Feed zone duties over, two teams’ soigneurs chat whilst heading to the finish. Photo©Ed Hood
Cannondale PR man Paolo Barbieri chats as we pass. Photo©Ed Hood

The parcours was fabulous, Ventoux dominated much of the early route but the hill top towns, lavender fields, limestone gorges and first sight of the Alps, proper had us ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing’ all the way through the journey.

This is a really beautiful part of the world, as we said to each other a hundred times today. Photo©Ed Hood

The Col de Manse was a tough climb, especially under a 30 degree sun and the inevitable crazies were out up there – Borat, clowns, mad Aussies and the odd penguin.

Daft, harmless Aussies have a ball waiting on the race. Photo©Martin Williamson
Is that Borat? Photo©Ed Hood
Clown to TDF Tweeters; ‘Take MY photo! Pleeeese!’ Photo©Ed Hood