Up at the Saxo press conference it was all very 'correct' and professional - just as you would expect from a perfectionist like Bjarne Riis. The team's tactics are the same; calculated, efficient - albeit Contador has an opportunistic streak in him. Half-an-hour down the road from the Saxo press conference is the Vacansoleil 'do.' Vacansoleil is a team which punches above it's weight and whose riders could never be accused of over analysing; 'let's go!' is the Hoogerland and De Gendt philosophy.
Journalists throw superlatives around these days, 'legend' is one of them. On the Tour's second rest day, PEZ spoke to a man who actually deserves that accolade, Dimitry Konyshev.
Roadside: Press conferences … don’t you just love them? Maybe. Not everyone does. The riders’ minds are elsewhere, already out on the burning tarmac of north-west France. For some guys, it’s like an inquisition; for others, it’s just a case of concentrate, smile, nod, drink carefully from the bottles of Vittel on the tables and get out with minimum fuss. You want a few snippets of wisdom from the most quizzed riders’ mouths? Well, here you go!
Roadside St.2: It’s all about seconds today, handfuls of them. For the yellow jersey contenders, it’ll be about ripping that kit off Philippe Gilbert’s shoulders. For the likes of Andy Schleck, it’s about whether they can further distance Alberto Contador. For Pez, it’s a day for zipping around the teams’ compound checking out who’s looking strong, reading the body language.
Roadside St.16: We're train spotters today, those sad people who collect train numbers - or who endlessly gaze at the minutiae of bicycles. Let's take a stroll through the start area and have a closer look at what some of the pros are riding...
Roadside St.1: In the old days of battle, the windmills at the summit of the Mont des Alouettes were used to calculate how far away opposing troops were and how quickly they were advancing on the hill just outside Les Herbiers. Today, only one still arcs through the sky yet the lazy swing of its sails could have been easily used to measure the distance between Philippe Gilbert and the rest.
Roadside St.10 The Rest Day is done and it’s back to work – for the riders and PEZ, as Ed & Martin pick up the Roadside baton for week #2. “Cav looks left in despair, of all the riders from all the teams in all the world, the one who's passing him is the one he'd least like to pass him - Andre Greipel.”
Roadside St.6: Love him or hate him, Lance Armstrong had quite a way with words … that line about sometimes being the hammer and sometimes the nail stuck with me. It should have been a relatively simple day out at the Tour. Go to the start village to see the sights and meet the people. It didn’t quite turn out like that. But from seeing a big, old sledgehammer swinging towards my day, the ending more than made up for a slow beginning.
Roadside St.11: I remember saying to Viktor at the Gent Six Day; 'that kid Cav will never make it, he's too heavy and he spends too much time hanging over the barriers, chatting.' And I also remember Dario Cioni saying to me; 'sometimes the peloton makes a mistake.' Well, I was 'majorly wrong' as Sean Kelly might say and Dario's maxim didn't apply on this stage.
Roadside St.8: Last night’s transfer was actually pretty straightforward, even at seventy kilometres driving, as the Sat-Nav deposited us right at the door of our hotel. That doesn’t always happen; sometimes it’s an approximation that necessitates a lot of back-pedalling and map reading. It was worth it though …
Roadside St.21: First up you have to get there; 350 odd miles from Grenoble to Creteil. We went to the start at Creteil because driving into Paris on Tour day isn't recommended if you want to get there the same day - but the magic creds take you along the parcours, straight to the Place de la Concorde.
Roadside St.4: BREIZH-OO, BREIZH-OO!! BREIZH-OO, BREIZH-OO, BREEEEEEIZH-OOOOO! The school kids are out in numbers and reinforcing their regional identity. The chants come closer, grow louder and softly drift away down the Mыr de Bretagne behind us. The Flemish are good when it comes to bike racing but the Bretons really go for it.
Roadside St.7: To go back to last night’s hotel briefly, we had a lovely chat with the owner over breakfast. The chateau is run as a family business with the ultimate aim being to finance to upkeep of an amazing set of buildings. The Germans did cause a bit of damage when they set up camp in during the Second World War. They used to repair planes in the grounds and thought trying to take one through the old gatehouse was a good idea...
Roadside St.3: We were off duty when we walked right into the middle of a domestic. This woman wasn’t necessarily scorned but she had uncovered her guy doing something he shouldn’t have been. And we’d only just stumbled away from a meeting with one of France’s self-proclaimed former greatest darts players and into her invective-fuelled path, loverboy’s very defiant ex.
Roadside St.13: At PEZ we're regulars at stage starts and on the parcours - but what happens after a stage? We thought we'd take a peek after stage 13 into Lourdes. Come with us we 'work the bus park.'
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: That pitcher of artisanal cider seemed like a good idea a couple of hours ago, but doesn’t feel like such a smart move now. There’s a dull ice cream headache, which only lot of l’ eau might cure. A lot changes in a couple of hours. Late this morning, we were headed back to the Tour to bring you a different perspective on Le Grand Boucle. Two hours later, we sat across the aisle from Stephen Roche, 1987 champion, at the teams’ presentation.
Roadside St.20: 'Gimme a bike!' says Levi - we're five kilometres into the final time trial of the 2011 Tour de France and at the worst possible place - on a tough climb - Radio Shack's Tour jinx continues... Ed Hood got the chance to follow former Tour podium finisher, Levi Leipheimer in today's time trial around Grenoble. Read on!
Roadside St.15: Limoux to Montpellier, 'Sprinter stage' - but maybe it'll split in the wind, or maybe the break will 'stick...or maybe HTC will syphon the last drops of gas from the tank and Cav will make it four? That sounds more like it. Why don't we get out there and ask some folks who know the score about what happened in the Pyrenees - and can Tommy really be 'en jaune sur les Champs-Elysees?'
Roadside St. 14: Saturday morning, the traffic's light, the sun is shining, we're on race route with no drama, Sylvester blasts on Nostalgi, 'Mighty Real' - it's a sign, it's gonna be a good day! We're driving the course, today; one 3rd cat, two 2nd cats, two first cats and, of course - the hors. cat climb of Plateau de Beille to the finish.