Friday, July 10, 2009

PYRENEES MOUNTAINS

Stage 7 of the 2009 Tour de France will take the riders 139.2 miles from the coast of Spain to the mountain top of Arcalis above the tiny principality of Andorre in the Pyrenees Mountains. There are a series of five climbs which should start to separate the sprinters from the climbers!

Another exciting day on the Tour with the Yellow Jersey surprise victory by the first Italian rider since 2000 to take the honors; Rinaldo Noncentini is 6 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador for the best time of the Tour to date and will start in the Maillot Jaune tomorrow!

Brice Feillu, a 23 year old Frenchman, won the King of the Mountain and also was the first rider across the finish line to take Stage 7 glory on the podium!

The top five riders include three members of the Astana Team with Alberto Contador in second place, Lance Armstrong in third place and Levi Leipheimer in fourth.

For more information: http://www.letour.fr/2009/TDF/LIVE/us/700/classement/

The Standings are as follows at the end of Stage 7:

Over all Team: Astana

Yellow Jersey: Rinaldo Noncentini Green Jersey: Mark Cavendish

King of the Mountain: Brice Feillu White Jersey: Tony Martin

And, as promised here is the 2004 story of our travel day from Triegnic to La Mongie to witness a Stage Finish live and in person!

Thursday, July 15th, 2004 Traveling to La Mongie

It’s after 10 pm and we’re in La Mongie, a ski resort high in the Pyrenees mountains near the French and Spanish border. If you’re familiar with the area we can see the Tourmalet Pass. There are firecrackers going off, music playing and car after car still trying to find a parking place for the night. The mountainside is covered with thousands of tents all here for the Tour de France that ends Stage 12 just below our window tomorrow about 5 pm. This is the culmination of an eighteen-mile uphill climb.

A bit of history about the Tour de France:

La Mongie is on one of the most important stages of the Tour de France. The Tour has regularly passed along the route since the inclusion of the Pyrenees in 1910. In 2004 the 12th stage terminated in La Mongie village. The last time the Tour crossed the Col du Tourmalet was the 10th stage of the 2008 competition; the route passed through La Mongie before reaching the Col du Tourmalet.

Tour de France stage finishes in La Mongie:

Year

Stage

Start of stage

Distance (km)

Category

Stage winner

Yellow jersey

2004

12

Castelsarrasin

197.5

1

Ivan Basso

Thomas Voeckler

2002

11

Pau

158

1

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong

1970

18

Saint-Gaudens

135.5

1

Bernard Thévenet

Eddy Merckx

Today’s story began as we left our hotel this morning and headed south towards the Pyrenees Mountains stopping in Triegnac on the way to mail some postcards. I got out of the car, dropped them into a mailbox and proceed to walk straight into a hanging pot that had just been watered! Not an auspicious start to our day! I was fine; the pot was missing some water and dirt. Shook the dirt from my hair, put on a dry shirt and off we went. Traveled the main roads and paid the tolls for a smooth day of driving. Only saw a few sunflower fields around Toulouse; and there were a few vineyards but mostly open grazing fields or wheat fields.

Jim and I had a different opinion as to where our hotel was for the evening. He was sure that we were in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, a large city at the base of the mountain. I was sure, based on the address of the hotel that he’d given to me several months ago, that we were at the finish line in La Mongie. One must remember not to crow too loudly as he was working over the Internet with five different hotels in the surrounding one hundred mile radius. We arrived in Bagneres, found the Tourist Information and Jim went in to ask for directions to the hotel. She pointed up the hill and said La Mongie and smiled. We headed up the hill. From that point on there were more and more bicycle riders until we were passing one about every twenty feet. They were going both ways on the hill. Traffic was a bear and that was before it really got bad. The road was lined with campers and trailers that have probably been parked here for a week or more to preserve their spot on this long final hill to the finish line. We arrived in La Mongie about 2:30 pm and found our hotel right on the finish line across the street from the Cable Car lifts up the mountain to the Pic du Midi. There is a huge observatory at the top of the mountain as well as the ski runs.

We’re in the older part of the hotel that is considered a “one star”; but, we have a private bathroom and electricity. We’re on the fourth floor and no elevator; it helps that we’re using nylon bags and leaving the large suitcases in the trunk of the car. When Jim first inquired about reservations to the main hotel several months ago, we were told that they were already fully booked. A month later we received an email that said they could give us a room in the “old part” of the hotel. The accommodations would “not be much” but we jumped at the opportunity to be on the top of the mountain as opposed to a hotel at the base of the mountain.

We settled in and then went walking. There are cows, goats and sheep wandering all over the place. People in tents have them walking right beside their tents. They are wrecking havoc with the cars and bikes on the road as they walk anywhere they please. And don’t forget the gifts they leave, also anywhere they please. One walks looking down or runs the risk of a fresh “mud” pie on their shoe!

We looked all day for our friend Sam who said he was riding up the mountain today to see the course. Finally reached Sam on the cell phone on the fourth try and turns out his hotel is further away than they thought so they will see one of the other climbs tomorrow but not the finish. I told Sam that if he was riding up tomorrow I’d borrow a paint brush and put a sign “GO SAM” on the street for him; that gave him a chuckle. Yes, our cell phone works like a charm here, but no internet access as the phone in our room is hard wired and no way to hook into the system. The trend here is to write encouraging messages with paint right on the road for the bike riders. This is especially popular on the hills. They use paint and large roller brushes. The signs last for years sometimes depending on the paint and amount of traffic. Some use chalk which fades pretty fast!

Had dinner tonight at a pizza bar, first pizza we’ve had in months so we also had beer. Hang the diet…this is definitely party night. It’s nearly 11 pm now and the fireworks are going off all over the place. We have a party going on below our window one story down on the deck. It’s going to be a long, long night. Met a young man from Connecticut and he was excited about the “good times tonight”. We have our American flag hanging out the window. I hooked some heavy locks (from the luggage) to the bottom to keep it from blowing so much. Works great. Tomorrow we will have some of the best seats in the house: the windows of our hotel room…right on the finish line!

(Our story will continue on Saturday, July 11th, 2009, to prepare you for the2009 Race going through La Mongie on Sunday, July 12th.)

1 comment:

aser said...

Tour de france stage 7
After stage 7 of the Tour de France, Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara fell to 39th place, but it wasn't American Lance Armstrong who replaced him as the ...
The video from the scene:tour de france stage 7-video