Oct 25th, at 11am at the Palais des Congres in the center of “gay Paris”, I was getting my fix. There I was hanging out in front of the Palais, surrounded by cleverly disguised Pros in normal clothes thinking they could pass for mere mortals. Although it’s been less that two weeks since I was at a big, international UCI event, this is different… it’s the Tour! Need I say more?
There was a bit of typically French waiting around before they would let us into the big Amphitheatre, but eventually the body-guards at the doors let us through. Once I got my press accreditations and had reserved myself a seat way down front, right under the high-definition big screen, I was free to roam around the room and look for the “stars of July”.
Gradually a wall of photographers and TV cameras amassed in front of the seats reserved for the Pros. Bit by bit the wall grew bigger and bigger and it took a while for the people at the back to realize the riders weren’t even there yet.
As the first few riders eventually did sneak in, I was up near the entrance taking in the grandeur of the whole thing when Thomas Voeckler walked in with a buddy. He stopped, look down at the mass of press flashing away at Alberto Contador, and said “Holly S***,” he paused, turned to his buddy, “look at that mass of press. Are they here for the riders?” he said seemingly excluding himself from this category, “ Contador must be down there. Well, ok, here we go.”
I followed him down to the front and spent some time observing the riders’ faces as people flashed cameras in their eyes, asked them endless questions and pretty much just stared at them. These guys are all used to dealing with the press and being on TV, but it was fun watching their faces none-the-less. They all looked quite ill-at-ease. They obviously felt like they were on display, and without their Oakleys and helmets to hide behind, it probably didn’t feel quite right. I very much enjoyed watching some of the guys’ reactions as TV interviewers asked them questions is various different languages. You could almost read their thoughts: “what am I going to say? What am I going to say?”
By the time the recently crowned 2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro arrived it was almost impossible to stay standing. People pushed and shoved, jumped up and down and forced their way around in a desperate attempt to get that big money photo of the “ultimate trio”: Evans, Contador and Pereiro.
Cadel, Contador, and Pereiro take in the proceedings.
Actually, to be honest there were surprisingly few riders present again at this year’s presentation. Last year was a veritable mirage in terms of big names, and this year was fairly similar. I had expected a lot more riders to show their faces.
Next year’s Tour could be a very interesting one, and with the exclusion of the Tour de France from the UCI Pro Tour calendar, many teams will be chomping at the bit to get themselves selected. In 2008, Tour organizers ASO will be making their own participation selection; a point that was strongly emphasized by Christian Prudhomme during his opening speech.
American Team Slipstream will be bidding for a Tour spot in 2008, and although none of the American team’s new signings such as David Millar or Magnus Backstedt were present, the man behind the whole operation, Jonathan Vaughters, made the trip from the US to show his face and make sure everyone knew he is well interested in getting a Tour spot.
So, the main attractions were Evans, Contador and Periero, and let me tell you they sure got their fare share of attention. Another rider copping some airtime and media attention was French neo-Pro Romain Feillu. Feillu has had a stellar season for his first year as a pro, winning the Tour of Britain and placing in the top 5 of a couple of Tour de France sprint stages. Romain was racing for CC Nogent-Sur-Oise last year, so he and I therefore rubbed shoulders at a few events.
Tour of Britain winner Roman Feillu looks forward to a long career in the pro ranks.
Romain was whisked off to pose on stage and to attend a few meetings right after the presentation, but I was able to have a quick word with him before he was pulled away by the sleeve. He was obviously very pleased with his first year as a Pro, and said he had adapted to the pro ranks very quickly (you don’t say?!). He’s looking forward to next year, and hopes his second year is as good as his first. No big revelations there, but we can talk with him a little later in the year and learn a bit more about what makes him tick, and how he adapted so quickly to the Pro ranks. Romain sort of stuck out a little to be honest. Not wearing the almost obligatory suits the riders all wear these days for the big presentations, Romain was in jeans and a sweater, neither of which were emblazoned with his team name. He had the big smile of a guy who’s taking it all in for the first time, and was genuinely happy to chat away with everyone and anyone.
Right then … with all the crazines and excitement I almost forgot we were here for the Tour de France Route presentation, and I don’t think I was the only one to forget. Daniel Mangeas, the official voice of the Tour de France, had to tell everyone to please sit down and be quiet as the presentation was about to start, and it was a while before everyone obliged.
The presentation started with a video summery of the last year’s Tour. The video showed some great cycling moments, before using a thunder and lightening background from the wet and miserable Albi TT stage, to turn onto the negative parts of the 07 Tour.
”Hmm… I wonder what the guys at PEZ will say about these parcours…”
A big emphasis was once again put on the eradication of doping during this presentation, and it is probably worth noting that Michael Rasumen wasn’t shown once wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour presentation video. Doping was the big subject of the presentation, with the route itself almost playing second fiddle. After much speculation and endless guess work going on around the world on cycling forums and in local newspapers, the 2008 Tour route is finally official.
We’ll be doing an in-depth analysis of the Route itself in the next few days, but I’ll say is that the course should mix things up a little, with no prologue, no Team TT, and some new climbs. Oh yeah, at it also goes right through my home-town of Gaillac, so I’m pretty excited about that!
With the presentation over, everyone flocked to the riders for yet more pictures, which made moving at all very difficult. I have finally extracted myself from the pile of journalists just in time to download a few pictures and catch my train home. Now where’s my Metro ticket…?
Tour de France 2008 Stage List
1. Saturday 5 July Brest – Plumelec 195 km
2. Sunday 6 July Auray – Saint-Brieuc 165 km
3. Monday 7 July Saint-Malo – Nantes 195 km
4. TT Tuesday 8 July Cholet – Cholet 29 km
5. Wednesday 9 July Cholet – Chвteauroux 230 km
6. Mtn Thursday 10 July Aigurande – Super-Besse Sancy 195 km
7. Mtn Friday 11 July Brioude – Aurillac 158 km
8. Saturday 12 July Figeac – Toulouse 174 km
9. Mtn Sunday 13 July Toulouse – Bagnиres-de-Bigorre 222 km
10. Mtn Monday 14 July Pau – Hautacam 154 km
Rest Day Tuesday 15 July Pau
11. Mtn Wednesday 16 July Lannemezan – Foix 166 km
12. Thursday 17 July Lavelanet – Narbonne 168 km
13. Friday 18 July Narbonne – Nоmes 182 km
14. Saturday 19 July NоmesDigne-les-Bains 182 km
15. Mtn Sunday 20 July Digne-les-Bains – Prato Nevoso 216 km
Rest Day Monday 21 July Cuneo
16. Mtn Tuesday 22 July Cuneo – Jausiers 157 km
17. Mtn Wednesday 23 July Embrun – L’Alpe-d’Huez 210 km
18. Mtn Thursday 24 July Bourg-d’Oisans – Saint-Йtienne 197 km
19. Friday 25 July RoanneMontluзon 163 km
20. TT Saturday 26 July Cйrilly – Saint-Amand-Montrond 53 km
21. Sunday 27 July Йtampes – Paris Champs-Йlysйes 143 km
Total km: 3500