Roadside: There's a hell of a row going on outside our hotel window tonight, in one of Liиge's less prepossessing hinterlands. The descendants of all those Italian mineworkers and factory men, those who went bonkers when Nibali was off the front in Liиge-Bastogne-Liиge in April, are tearing up the streets. Even in the heartlands of cycling, other events sometimes take precedence!
Roadside Stage 7: The first mountain stage is always stressful, for the riders, for the organisers, for everyone. No rider wants to lose time through a lack of concentration. The organisers want everything to go smoothly, as the logistics of moving so many people on and off a mountain are a potential disaster.
Roadside Stage 9: Besanзon is famous for being a number of things: UNESCO world heritage site, birthplace of Victor Hugo, home to the citadel of Vauban. It's also reputed to be 'the heart and soul of watchmaking', which makes the city the ideal host for a Tour time trial.
Roadside St.13: On the day when L'Equipe magazine declared Mark Cavendish the best Tour de France sprinter, ever, PEZ decided to have a look at the fast men who are still in the race - and their bikes, too. There are eight men left in the race that it's fair to classify as pure sprinters – we haven’t included Peter Sagan; he’s much too versatile to classify as a pure sprinter.
Roadside Finale: 'A L'Heure Anglaise' - the 'Hour of the English' says L'Equipe. There's a huge image on the front page of Bradley Wiggins punching the air as he wins yesterday's final time trial. Any thoughts we entertained of Froome running his Boss close or upsetting the band wagon were quashed with a time trialling master class from the Londoner.
Roadside St.4: The sun is blazing down on the Boulevard Vauban pretty much dead center in Abbeville. Cofidis and OmegaPharma-QuickStep are the first to set up shop in the square, but the riders stay safely hidden from view. No matter. We'll get to speak to some of them to find out how the peloton is feeling after a nervous first day back on French soil.
Roadside St.2: “Aujourd'hui, les coureurs partent а l'assault de la Citadel.” That's the tagline on the front page of the L'Avenir newspaper, referring to La Citadelle de Namur. It's not a big climb to the top of this impressive structure, it's not even a particularly important point in this year's Tour. However, the high-speed thrash up the cobbles and through one of the most extensive sites of its kind in Europe makes this today's place to be.
The route of the Tour de France 2014 has been presented today and the news is that the Vosges mountains will again feature in the race and in particular a summit finish at La Planche des Belle Filles - the site of Chris Froome's very first Tour stage win in 2012. Our very own Gordan Cameron was there roadside that day to catch the action and atmosphere that we will expect to see again in '14.
Roadside St.14: There's no mistaking the noise - men down! Two Astanas and a QuickStep - it's Levi Leipheimer. One of the Astanas is up and away, it’s Brajkovic, he grabs his team mate's wheel - who sits, stunned, on the cold Pyrenean tarmac.
Roadside: The show begins again, in one of cycle sport's most important towns. Every April, some of the hardest men in the bike racing game roll out of here for leg-snapping, out-and-back combat between Liиge and Bastogne. June is ending and it's a sporting war once more. The hills and valleys around here have seen plenty of real battles, the roads will see friendlier duels this week.
Roadside St.17: Luchon is from another age, a spa town with wide boulevards, old money, health giving waters, Pyrenean air, Salons du The, and elegant street cafes. On this final day of mountains at the 2012 Tour, we mixed it up with the teams as the circus got ready to leave town...
Roadside St.10: When I woke up this morning, there it was on the bed beside me - my polka dot jersey. But I didn't have to fight tooth and nail to get it - Michael Morkov did that for me. After our interview, yesterday evening, he presented me with it - the tears were close, I have to tell you. But enough of my sentimentality. It's Stage 10 today!
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...
I don’t really like when folks ask me about my trips to continental races; ‘I bet you got plenty drinking done over there,’ or 'all those boys are on drugs, aren’t they?’ I usually just force a smile, nod and change the subject. The Tour 2011 was different; ‘got your Cavendish tattoo done yet?’ or ‘can you explain how that green jersey works?’ and ‘I was really moved when the Australian boy who won dedicated it to his coach (Aldo Sassi) who died.’
Roadside St.18: If you boil le Tour right down to the essence, the main purpose is to sell things - from sausages to washing powder by way of yoghurt, biscuits and newspapers. But the Tour also sells dreams – like being as cool as your favorite pro just by riding the same bike as him.
Roadside St. 11: It’s fair to say we’re big fans of indigenous customs – especially when it comes to partaking of local libations. It’s a fine balancing act between stimulant and stupor, but Ed’s no newb when it comes to navigating the nearby bar… in this case an ol’ fave in Grenoble.
Roadside St. 12: Martin parks the Renault, we have to hear this, properly. Our French isn't the best but we get the jist - Martinez goes away from the other four, they get him back, Peraud tries, all of a sudden it's down to two - Millar and Peraud, but the others get back to them, last kilometre - one name is getting mentioned more and more as the commentator's voice goes to 'auctioneer' mode…
Roadside St.6: We'd been keeping a close eye on the weather forecast the last few days before deciding on our strategy for today. They'd promised (or threatened) a lot of rain and it had come in bursts. If the weather's rubbish, we'll have an indoor day, feet up, watching the race coverage on France 2. If it's not a monsoon, we'll hit the road again.
Roadside St.19: Bradley Wiggins punches the air; the English couple at the front of the bar where we’re watching the race on TV, applaud as the maillot jaune crosses the line at the end of the stage 19 time trial of the 2012 Tour de France.
Roadside: The BMC Racing Team's press conference is due off at 3.30pm. We get to the Park Inn Hotel, tucked between the ring road and the airport at 2.15pm. It's already rammed to the rafters. We take the roundabout a couple of times to shake off a truck before trying a risky parking manoeuvre. If Cadel's got any pearls of wisdom, we don't want to miss them.