Those of you who watch the live coverage of the Tour long enough to see the podium presentations will have noticed (if you’ve been looking closely enough) that a rider gets onto the podium, too, when the Skoda girls are on the stage. Pez got to chat to one of the beautiful ladies handing over the best young rider’s white jersey...
Roadside Recap: As we make our merry way through the rounds of the PEZ Looks Back, Ed is up for his retrospective on the Tour that was. As the ever discerning journalist, Ed's recollections aren't all of the positive sort, but worry not, the positives (not those positives) heavily outweigh any low points. Ready? Let's go.
Roadside Wrap: That's Post Grand Tour Stress Disorder. The Champs Elysйes stage of le Tour is the climax, the culmination of a near month long adventure around Europe. The riders and staff have a huge party in the plush Meridien Hotel; whilst the journos slip into the lift down to underground car park and realise that they can't put off gutting out the hire car any longer.
Roadside Wrap: My second big adventure on the Tour, my second year behind the scenes riding the maddest, scariest, most thrilling rollercoaster in the sports world. With a brief to go and speak to the people beside, inside and chasing the race, to hunt out the weird and the wonderful, here are a few of the things that struck me along the way...
Roadside St.21: Ed and Martin have been hard at work for over a week now. They've logged thousands of kilometers behind the wheel, spent countless hours working, and finally, on the last day, they have but one wish: to be fans. That’s what we’re going to be today, we’ve been hacks for nine stages – time for a change.
Insight St.20: Looking at the route of the 2009 Tour de France when it was released last fall, everyone involved in Lance Armstrong’s comeback knew that Mont Ventoux would be one of the race’s main battlegrounds. The Tour de France is always won by the strongest rider in the race, but with the configuration of the final week this year, it was clear that gaining climbing power was a top priority for Lance’s Tour preparation.
Roadside St.19: "Baroudeur" according to my Collins French dictionary (in colour), there's no such word. The Baroudeur stages are those which are too tough to be called 'sprinter' stages but not tough enough to be called 'mountain' stages. They suit the hard men; riders who will plug away for hours under a baking sun or through the rain, with half a dozen kindred spirits for the chance of a stage win.
Insight St.19: Nineteen down, two to go. And of the two stages remaining in the 2009 Tour de France, it’s tomorrow’s race to the top of Mont Ventoux that is likely to decide the composition of the final podium in Paris. Alberto Contador’s position in the yellow jersey is secure – barring incident or injury – but the second and third steps of the final podium are very much in play.
Roadside St.18: One lap of beautiful Lac Annecy on a bicycle; a great couple of hours fun - or 50 minutes of pain? Today it's the latter: stage 18 of the 2009 Tour de France and a chance for Wiggins to claw back lost time; or will Alberto morph from Prince to King, today? Within the next few hours we'll know.
Insight St.18: I had an interesting training partner this morning for a little jaunt around Annecy, none other than Lance Armstrong. I joined him on the bike as he pre-rode the Stage 18 time trial course and made some last-minute adjustments to his Yoshitomo Nara-painted time trial bike. It was good to see that he was relaxed and in a good mood; I take it as a good sign when he’s in the mood to give me grief about this or that.
Roadside St.17: If you're from Scotland, you believe in the Loch Ness monster - and if you believe in her, you have to believe in the Yeti. We were lucky enough to bump into one at Bourg-Saint-Maurice before stage 17; and a friendly fellow he was, too! But that's as about as light hearted as we can get, today.
Insight St.17: One of the important – and sometimes overlooked – aspects of stage racing is the fact that you have to be constantly aware of both the people ahead and behind you in the standings. We all tend to focus on the riders right behind the yellow jersey, and their obvious motivation to overtake the rider or riders ahead of them...
The last time we spoke to Ryder Hesjedal was just after Garmin had run the mighty Astana squadra to within seconds in the TTT. A lot of Livestrong slogans have passed under the tyres since then. We caught up with a sleepy Ryder after the "two dogs day" (© Matt Conn) - le Petit et Grand Saint Bernards.
Roadside St.16: "You know what, Martin? It must be great, just sitting there, with a picnic, watching the race." "Why don't we do that, tomorrow, Ed?" "Why not, indeed!"
Insight St.16: Summit finishes get all the glory, but it take a lot of power and a ton of courage to win races that finish at the bottom of steep and technical descents. To win at the bottom a descent, you not only have to have the climbing legs to cross the summit in the lead group, but then you also need the skills and steely nerves necessary to get to go downhill like an avalanche.
Insight Rest day 2: Am I disappointed he’s not leading the race? Not even a little bit. I’m amazed at the improvement he made in 12 months, thrilled he’s riding high in the overall standings at the Tour de France, and I’m looking forward to the rest of this week and the progress he can make in the next 12 months.
Cadel’s bad day; straight from the horse’s mouth. Verbier wasn’t a good stage for Cadel Evans; as well as losing time to Contador - just like the entire field did – he lost time to podium rivals, Sastre, the Schlecks, and Wiggins. We spoke to Silence-Lotto’s manager, former Belgian pro champion, Marc Sargeant and DS, former Paris – Tours winner, Hendrik Redant, to get the low down.
Roadside Pez: The guys in black tee-shirts look up, when I shout; "Craig!" This is the Astana camp and strangers making loud noises need to be investigated; "oui?" says one of the guys, suspiciously. Craig looks up from washing Haimar Zubeldia's blue Trek; "it's OK, they're friends of mine," he tells his compadres as he beckons us to duck under the red and white "crime scene" tapes.
Roadside St.15: Pontarlier, the start town is famed for being a centre of absinthe production - but Martin says I can't try any; I'm bad enough without hallucinogenic spirits. The climbing starts within minutes of quitting town; the Cat 3, 3.7k Rafour climb.
Insight St. 15 When the attacks start flying on the slopes of big mountain climbs, the performance gap between leading and falling off the pace is razor-thin. As expected, the summit finish to Verbier led to a showdown between the major yellow jersey contenders in the 2009 Tour de France, but after all was said and done, there was only one surprising performance: Bradley Wiggins.
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