Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bordeaux Time Trials for Tour de France

Wow….what a day in Bordeaux! First of all….last night after dinner we drove into the city center…we are staying south of the city just off of the speedway or as we would say “freeway” that rings the city. The traffic was horrible…we crawled all the way; but managed to get into the old area of the city and found the road course for the tomorrow’s Time Trials for the 19th Stage of the Tour de France. This will effectively be the final as the ride into Paris is ceremonial and the Time Trial will be the last real chance to change the winners.

When we found the center I suddenly saw some gold leaf gates and church steeples…Jim parked and we started out on foot. The gold leaf gates were to the gardens behind the Hotel de Ville (city hall) and they were hosting a party for the VIP’s of the TdF. The steeples were of the Cathedral of St. Andre, dating back before the 12th century. The bell tower was built in the 15th century. We plan to attend Mass there on Sunday. Walked around the area and then back to the car to continue following the route of the Time Trial course. It is approximately thirty miles in length; a triangle in the city and then north of the city to the town of Pauillac. We followed it until we found the speedway and we decided to head for the hotel for the evening.

This morning we were up and on our way to town before 10 am. The first of the riders were scheduled to leave by 10:25 am. They each start individually out of a “starting house…a shoot down a ramp much like a skier”. The first ones are a minute apart; then midway they make them two minutes and towards the end….the top riders….are three minutes apart.

We went the reverse way on the speedway and got off near the airport on the west side of the city. Following signs and the great map from the hotel; we were soon into the city center and found a parking place just before we were going to go into a parking garage. Street parking was almost non-existent by the time we arrived. Started walking and within a couple of blocks we were into the triangle area of the course very near the Hotel de Ville and the Cathedral that we visited last night. Soon we started to see some of the early riders on the course that was protected by metal fences. It was difficult to find places to cross the course. Soon we saw some more of the decorated cows that we’ve shown you before. We also stopped for a visit inside of the Cathedral that was now open.

Turns out we walked the entire triangle…had we known the exact starting location we could have saved ourselves about a mile and but the walking was good … we only did about three miles Jim said. He carried his chair and we each had a backpack. The sun was out and it was a warm day; but not as humid as we’ve been having this summer. Along the way there were many old buildings and sights to photograph. It’s been difficult choosing from the several hundred that I took today…so I’ve split it into two slideshows. One very interesting place was next to the river and it was a very large water pool that was only ankle deep. People were taking their shoes off and wading in the water to cool off.

We finally reached the starting house and then the fun began. Lots of photos for you of riders and then we went over to the parking area for the team motor homes. We found Team RadioShack’s and talked for a long time with one of the staff. Lance had not arrived yet…he had a 2:59 pm starting time and would probably not be arriving until 1 pm. At this time it was about 11:30; I did give the staff member one of my name cards and asked him to give it to Lance. Who knows what will happen to it but Lance…if you’re reading this…we loved following you on the Tour de France!

We walked over to a restaurant and had a beer while we waited. Good to sit down and enjoy the event. Thousands of people from everywhere in the world…exciting to be a part of it. Watched some more of the riders starting their course and then finally back over to the RadioShack area. The crowds had grown huge while we were gone….Lance had just arrived as we walked up and as you can see from the photo…I had to wade in through the crowds…I finally made it to the front and he’d already gone inside of the motor home. By this time I’d put on the 2004 Tour de France yellow shirt and hoped that might get me some air time. I stood for several hours in the hot sun with a mother and daughter from San Jose! We had fun….they handed out red shirts for us to wear and the crowd was pressing the flesh and it was HOT. Jim finally took his chair, went into the shade and let me play the game. Yes…I stayed until he came out to do his spinning before heading over to leave on his ride for the day.

As soon as I got my photos I headed out of the crowd and we slowly walked back to the course to watch the riders coming out of the starting house. Found spaces along the metal fence…by wading through the bushes…and ended up standing next to a couple from Butte, Montana. They helped us hold our American Flag and they had a Montana State flag…Levi Leipheimer is a native of Montana. We enjoyed getting to know Grant and Diane and had fun for the hour plus that we stood there until the last rider of the day: Alberto Contador.

We headed back to the car the shorter route…actually completing the third leg of the triangle of the course….and found our way back to the hotel about 5 pm. We decided to open a bottle of wine tonight; Jim accidentally opened one of the crooked bottles that we’d purchased in Carcassonne to bring home with us…it was all of 2.54 euros….he went on the Internet to see if we can purchased it in the USA…yes…he’s found it for about $12.00 + shipping! I think we’ll make do with the one bottle we have left!

Today’s results for the TdF: Team RadioShack is the number one team for the 2010 TdF, Fabian Cancellara took first place in today’s stage with Tony Martin coming in second. Overall, Alberto Contador has first place in the fifth closest TdF’s in history time wise.

Andy Schleck has second place, Denis Menchor took third away from Samuel Sanchez. Robert Gesink has 6th; Chris Horner 10th, Levi Leipheimer 13th, Andreas Kloden 14th and Lance Armstrong 23rd….39’ 20’ behind the winner.

We stay for another day in Bordeaux while the teams fly to Paris tonight for their ride tomorrow. We’ll miss the excitement of the race but it will be fun to enjoy the rest of our time touring; especially the Chateaux’s of the Loire Valley. One note…our friend Jochem that took a day to show us his home city of Brussels is now touring in the USA and has arrived at our home. Many thanks to our neighbors who have greeted them so graciously; they received rave reviews in Jochem’s blog.

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