Friday, July 16, 2010

Travel Day in the Mountains West of Grenoble

Last night we spent time on the computer searching the roads that the race will be on today. We’ve determined that our hotel for the night is right on the course. We also called and found that they do have wifi! By 8:30 am we were on the road headed south towards Grenoble on the toll road. The miles flew and soon we were there and off to the slow roads…but free….that would take us west through beautiful mountains for the rest of the day.

I did see a few fields of sunflowers but alas the only lavender I saw was in small bunches that had been planted for decoration. We are just too far north for the lavender fields. I’ve enjoyed the fields of animals held in by a few wires…they teach them young that those few wires are electric! The mountains are so beautiful; even as we drive away from the French Alps we are climb into mountains that are green with life among the forests. Small villages and groups of farms dot the roads that wind and twist back and forth over the rivers and streams that run between the mountains. At one point we were following a group of cars connected to the Tour de France. We reached a point that was less than half an hour from our hotel about 1 pm….they had stopped the traffic because the road was part of the race.

Already there were people lining the sides of the highway; we told them our hotel was that way….it was at least an hour until the caravan was due but they wouldn’t let us through. We checked the maps and found that if we went further up the road that was open we’d find a small road that would take us into our hotel the back way. An hour and a half later we arrived! Yes…we are directly on the route and this road allowed us to get to the hotel! The caravan arrived about fifteen minutes after we checked into the hotel!

Jim got our chairs out of the car and we waited for the Caravan in style! After it passed we went back into the hotel and watched the race on television in our room for the hour that it took for it to arrive outside of our hotel! So nice! Took Jim’s chair back to the road and settled in for a few minutes before the riders and helicopters arrived. I heard two fellows speaking English and asked the question: where’re you from? They had just arrived minutes ago in a rented motor home…their very first experience…they were very excited…and they are from Chicago. Lots of fun telling them the little tidbits that make a difference in following the tour; they are going to follow it the rest of the way into Paris. They had no idea about when the roads close…how early to be on the mountain, etc.

Had fun talking with them while we waited; the one we talked to most has been living in China for three years…working for an American company…and was very interesting. The riders came by in three groups and a few stragglers. We’re nearly at the end of the course here in L’Habitarelle at Chateauneuf-de-Randon. They have only a short distance from here to the end of the race today in the city of Mende but the last two kilometers is a killer climb after 208.5 kilometers (about 130 miles) on a hot and humid day.

Right now we’re watching the interviews after the closing and it’s raining in Mendes so we should have it here soon. The breakaway group that included RadioShack’s Andreas Kloden did really well until the very end on that killer hill; the tour leaders Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador took off at the very end and Contador easily sailed past the break away and nearly took the stage. But another rider who had helped him leave the peloton actually ended up taking the stage at the very end. Joaquin Rodriguez, a Spanish rider with the Russian Team of Katusha took first place; barely edging out Contador…last year’s overall winner!

FYI….the head butting incident yesterday resulted in the disqualification of Mark Renshaw of Columbia Team. He was always the last rider to help bring Mark Cavendish across the line. He will be missed but how sad that an American caused such a problem.

But the bottom line for the day was that other than Andy Schleck losing about ten seconds to Contador everything remained the same and Andy again was awarded the white (for the best under age 25) and the yellow jerseys. We’re in our room now enjoying a bottle of wine with our dinner. Jim had a can of his pate canard and I enjoyed some bread with my Nutella along with a shared can of Saladieres Parisienne…the wonderful creamy one that has tuna and vegetables in a creamy white sauce. Dessert later will be the last chocolate bar in the bag. Life is good and everything is right with the world tonight!

Tomorrow we head for Carcassonne and two nights in an Abbey. I’m sure we won’t have wifi there so will have to find both places to watch the race and McDonalds for wifi time later in the day. We will have two straight days of long driving but will be spending four nights in Carcassonne; two in the Abbey and two in a Balladins Hotel.

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