The sun was shining and it was about 70 degrees when we left our little Hotel de la Post about 8:30 am. We first drove to Mende where the race ended yesterday; as we drove through town we passed all of the team motor homes that were picking up the riders for their hour long bus ride to the start of today’s race. It was tempting to stop and see who we could see, but decided we needed to keep moving as we had lots of ground to cover today.
Our first adventure was to the A75 so that we could see and drive over the Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world that was recently completed. Before crossing the bridge we took the off ramp to the viewing area so that we could climb to the top of the hill for some great photos before we actually drove across the structure. Couldn’t believe the number of people who all seemed to be doing just what we were doing! Soon we were back on the two lane mountain roads that twist and turn as we went up and then down many little mountains on our way west towards Albi. If we can actually make it we’ll go to a museum there on Toulouse Lautrec, the famous artist.
We were nearly there when they closed the road for the Tour de France. We were at the half way point for the race. We knew that it was a good possibility so we were prepared to spend a few hours. We thought we might make it to the other side before we stopped but had gotten caught in heavy traffic in the town of St. Affrique where they were having their Saturday Market. It was about 12:30 pm and the Caravan was due to roll through about 12:45 pm. We settled in our chairs (so nice to have) and waited. We had lots of people on both sides but no one was speaking English. We got quite a few of the items being tossed and stuffed them into our bags before settling down to wait the hour plus for the bicycle riders.
I thought I heard the father use a bit of English….earlier the mother was taking a photo of the two girls and their father and I offered to take it for her and she’d indicated “no” but with a smile! I took a chance and asked the teenage daughter if they lived nearby? That began a wonderful conversation with the whole family. They were on holiday from their home in Holland and all spoke excellent English. They’re camping nearby and this was their first experience to see the Tour de France live. They will be in Paris but the day after the Tour ends which we said might not be that bad based on our previous experience. Ended up giving the father a yellow “Live Strong” bracelet and the mother and two girls some hats that we’d collected today as they had not gotten any of them. Shared my website card and took a photo of them to publish as our Holland friends.
Then the mother of the family on the other side of us who had been busy after the Caravan passed using chalk to write messages of encouragement on the pavement came up and spoke to us. She was impressed that we had our American Flag out and offered to take a photo for us. We talked and they also were from Holland and loved the name Jansen…very Dutch they said. I also gave them a website card and took some photos to publish. They usually watch the Tour on television the father said but they are on holiday now and were camped less than fifty kilometers from here. Someone told them they should go see a stage and mapped it all out for them. So much fun to get to know people around the world!
Just before the riders came five helicopters suddenly covered our area…taking pre-photos we assumed. Maybe our flag was in there? Then we had to wait another half hour for the riders to arrive; they’d had a tough climb just before they rounded the corner on our hill. There were three riders away and the peloton soon followed. Got a few good photos but none of Lance…they come just too fast and in too large of a group! But its fun as they woosh by! I did recognize the team manager for RadioShack again driving one of the team cars.
Back to the car and finding small roads that would take us south without running into the race again. It was after 3 pm by now and we had a long way to go. We made it to Realmont and hit another road block due to the Tour de France…yes we’d crossed their path again but this time they were finished and we only had to wait a short time before they opened up the road that we needed to go south on to get to our next hotel in Carcassonne, not far from the Mediterranean Sea. Yes…we’re in the south of France and I’m seeing fields of sunflowers…..but no lavender!
We arrived in Carcassonne about 6 pm and found the Notre Dame Abbey without too much trouble. We do work well as a team with Jim driving and my map reading skills. And, we’re pretty good about not yelling when we make mistakes; even when we have to turn around and go back five miles or so. The Internet said that the Twitter of the day was from Lance Armstrong who said that whoever invented round-de-rounds must have hated bicycle riders. Personally, they’re great when driving as sometimes we go around four times to make sure we’ve got the correct road!
Yes, we’ve got hard wired internet in our room for one computer…we’re taking turns….we did have to put the sheets on our own beds but we’re looking forward to eating dinner and breakfast served by the monks…fantastic price; and a tiny bathroom in our room. We are just across from the ancient walled city and will be walking over there tonight after our 8 pm dinner.
Haven’t found the television yet but we hear there is one in the common room. Jim is on the Internet and gave me the following report for you. The breakaway group of three riders that we saw in the countryside were caught at the very end. Alexandre Vinokourov of the Astana Team passed them at the very end to take the stage….just like yesterday! It’s kind of sad when they work so hard to be out in front most of the race and then lose as the last minute; but very common.
Andy Schleck still has the yellow jersey as he is 31 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador. RadioShack is still the first place team overall the other teams. Jim says it’s because they don’t have any sprinters and all come in well on the hills time wise.
So for today…au revoir