Okay, so I realize that my report from the Tour de France is now a couple weeks overdue. Oops, sorry, these things happen on vacation. I was reminded that I’d never actually uploaded it when, earlier today, as I sat at a sidewalk café here in Girona, a couple of racers from Team Garmin-Chipotle rode by and settled at a nearby table. Too bad I didn’t have my bike with me, nor was I wearing my Webcor jersey...
Yes, I could have run up to them gushing but did I? No. I simply can’t stand the egos of most of these boys. I’m sure they are all very nice people but I’ll probably never find out unless I end up in a bizarre situation where we’re actually having a normal interaction. However, I did saunter over to ask them for advice on where to ride around Girona. I figured they should know, and I humored myself by asking, "Do you guys ride much in this area?" Ha! Of course they do, they must ride hundreds of miles wherever they go. I was happy to find out I’d already ridden several of their suggested routes. Tomorrow I’ll ride the rest.
Anyway, if you’re still interested, you can read my account of the 10th stage of the Tour, it was actually a truly incredible experience and I’m really not one to be easily impressed:
Wow, what an unbeatable first Tour de France experience. I joined my new friend B for the 10th stage in the Pyrenees, one of the toughest days in the race with two sizable assents (Tourmalet and Hautacam) in 156 kilometers. As we jumped in the car yesterday morning, he handed me a “borrowed” press pass. “You’re kidding me,” I said. And yes, I do realize that it's possible that I lead a charmed existence. Either that or I'm burning up all of my good karma in this lifetime.
We started our day by walking into the Parc Beaumont Hotel, a four star hotel just near the start where Team Columbia (Team High Road) members were staying. Roger, the hotel manager, smiled and welcomed my friend B and me with espresso, although I witnessed him turn away countless others who entered the lobby. This would be the first of the many times I felt like royalty during my Tour experience.
While I was sitting there, I met Kim Kirchen, while he was still wearing the yellow jersey. B snapped a photo of us, and Kim said sheepishly, “I didn’t shave.” B explained later that racers often don’t shave before tough race days because the energy their body diverts to growing new hair is better spent on the climb. Kim lost the yellow jersey that day, but I still have faith in him.
Next I met Bob Stapleton, owner of the team, and by my assessment a man of great integrity. He asked me what I did, and as I told him about the bike coalition, he seemed genuinely interested and mentioned that he knows Adam, my counterpart in SLO, where the team is based. So of course I took the opportunity to mention how great Adam and all my friends at SLOCBC are.
Okay, enough of the who’s-who in bicycle racing. B and I left for the village, an exclusive area where only VIPs and press are allowed to go. Although if anyone had chosen to examine my press pass they would have clearly figured out that my name is not Jesse and I am not a 34 year old man. But, I smiled and said my bonjours to all of the guards and strutted around like I belonged there and no one doubted me.
The village was really not that exciting. Okay, I said it--sacrilege, I know. Maybe it would have been cool if I was a local wannabe politician and could rub shoulders with all the “important” people. But here, they were just people to me. People that were speaking French--I couldn’t even eavesdrop on interesting conversations. The plus side, of course, was all the free food there (the euro-dollar exchange rate is killing me… a nonprofit employee budget doesn’t go that far in Europe).
We left the village, said hi to team Slipstream (Garmin / Chipotle) and walked like stars down the course to the car. We hopped in the car and proceeded to drive the majority of the course to the pressroom at the finish. If you haven’t been to the Tour, you might not yet understand that it’s absolutely astounding how many people come to watch it. They line the entire route, and we drove the entire thing along with the other official vehicles. They waved and said hello to us. We waved back yelling “Bonjour!” Judging by their response, I’m not sure they see too many women at all in the cars, much less one leaning out the window with an unbelievable grin on her face waving and whooping with exhilaration.
If I were one of the racers, all that excitement and encouragement from the fans would really keep me going.
The next day I got to hang out with Team Garmin-Chipoltle at lunch party. A burrito was a welcome treat in the land of bread and cheese. And when I say hang out, I really do mean hang out. I actually had conversations with them, and I can report that yes, they are human, if a tad surrounded by the black shroud of big egos. I choose to talk with them about non-bicycling related topics, as I figured they were completely overloaded by the reporters on all that mumbo-jumbo. Not to mention I’m just not one to know a good question. What am I, lowly bike advocate, going to say… do you, uh, like racing? Do you prefer separated or joined facilities? Give me a break.