Saturday, July 11, 2009


Stage 8 of the 2009 Tour de France began in the Principality of Andorre in the capital city of Andorre-la-Vieille and ran for 109.4 miles to Saint-Girons in France. They started at an altitude of 3800 feet, reached 8054 feet and ended at 1325 feet; having completed three mountain climbs during this stage.

Speed…Speed…Speed: The word of the day as the riders raced back into France!

An early break away group maintained their distance for the entire race. The final sprint brought the 25 year old Spanish rider, Luis Leon Sanchez, across the line ahead of the other three for victory on the podium today as the winner of Stage 8!

The overall standings remain the same as all of the leaders crossed the finish line together minutes behind the four man break away!

At the end of the day the Jerseys belonged to:

Top Team overall: Astana

Maillot Jaune: Rinaldo Noncentini (Italy)

Maillot Vert: Thor Hushovd (Norway)

Maillot A Pois Rouges: Christophe Kern (France)

Maillot Blanc: Tony Martin (24 yr old German)

And now for our exciting story of our day in 2004 at the finish line at the top of a mountain in La Mongie; one of the villages that the 2009 Tour will pass through during their Stage 9 Tour tomorrow from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes.

Friday, July 16th, 2004. La Mongie: On the Finish Line

We didn’t sleep much but what an exciting night. We had a jam session going with a very loud DJ until 1:30 am…sounded like a radio in our room with the volume up as high as it would go. Earplugs were of little help. In addition to the DJ, who was playing mostly American tunes with English lyrics there were at least a thousand or more very loud observers, mostly men, who were singing and yelling with the music. The D.J. and music stopped but the partygoers kept going…one very drunk group until 5 am. Firecrackers went off intermittently all night long.

About 1 am the large empty parking lot directly across from our room started to fill with huge trucks that had arrived from the finish line on Thursday in Fignac. From that point on they very quietly or as quietly, as they could work, began to set up for today’s finish. We are looking directly into the awards podium from our window. The finish line and all the officials are directly below us. It’s going to be a long and fun day. I’ve moved a table in front of the window to sit on as it’s difficult to tear myself away from the window. The best part is I’ve got a bathroom within five feet of my window that flushes and is private! The sun is out and it’s getting warm very fast. Last night it got pretty cold here on the mountain. The fireworks have started again. It’s almost 10 am and the race does not arrive here until about 5:01 pm (per Mister Jim with the help of a newspaper). The riders leave at twelve noon from Castelsarrasin, 197.5 kilometers (122.5 miles) with two killer climbs at the very end.

We had wonderful seats from the window in our room. Jim went down to the lobby to see most of the race on television and raced back to our room for the finish. I sat in our window for most of the day (tethered by a scarf tied to the radiator under the window). For a cushion I used the laundry bag (also tethered to the radiator). The sun was out bright and early and lasted until about 2 pm. The storm clouds gathered with lightening and thunder until the sky opened and poured buckets on the people sitting on the hills, walls and just about any open space. Many had been there since very early this morning. Lots of sunburns! Most stuck it out for the hour that it rained but a few gave up and went inside where ever they could. Vendors were prepared and begun selling rain gear as soon as the dark clouds started gathering. We were safe and dry inside our hotel for the duration.

The first two riders arrived right on time at 5 pm; it was Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso, an Italian and very good friend to Lance. Basso beat him across the finish line at the last minute. Rumor was that Lance let up at the last minute to give Basso his first Stage Win; a friend whose mother is being treated for cancer. Armstrong was also a winner that day as he made a huge cut in his overall time that should put him in the lead after tomorrow’s race. It was neck and neck for the last two hundred meters. Very exciting, but not the outcome we had hoped for; Lance had taken first on this mountain in 2002 and we fully expected him to be first across the line again. But, tomorrow there are many more steep hills to climb and Lance tends to excel at that challenge. The Yellow Jersey was awarded to little Tommy Voeckler who has won the hearts of everyone as he continues to hold on to that small point lead to maintain first place; each day is a struggle as they head further into the mountains where he will eventually lose that lead to a rider that excels on the mountains; probably our Lance Armstrong tomorrow!

Well it’s now 9 pm. The race was over and the prizes awarded before 6 pm. They were taking things down before the awards ceremony was completed. It’s pretty much down but they are still loading some of the equipment. Many of the vehicles have already left for the next Stage tomorrow. They will work all night and tomorrow preparing for the twenty minutes or less that it usually takes for the last riders to finish, and an awards ceremony that last about fifteen minutes. But, it’s a real moneymaker for the town and the Tour de France organization. Thousands of people are following the tour from town to town for the three weeks that it lasts; others are content to pick up one or more stages. This particular ski area is usually closed this time of year and opened especially for this event. They will all close within a few days.

Most of the photos in the slideshow were taken from our hotel window!

1 comment:

Mary said...

Love the way the you show all the winners and standings etc. Was neat to see the different years in La Monie and the winners. Hope you have a safe and happy trip.
Only travelers could understand how nice it is to have a good working bathroom in your room. With the added plus of a great indoor window seat for the race.
Hugs, Mary