Megиve, a gentile old school ski resort, high in the Alps and Pez HQ for le Tour’s sojourn into Europe’s most famous mountain range.
Our hotel is cute, but on the outskirts of the village; we haven’t actually been in lovely old Megиve; and since it’s ‘picnic day’ we thought we’d explore and get our victuals.
Place De Eglise is at the heart of the village; horse drawn carriage tours, art galleries, mountain streams gurgling down beside the lanes, beautifully tended flower beds, ads for the village orchestra and don’t forget the casino – those Euro Trash ski play boys need somewhere to “let it ride!”
Two coffees, seven euros – ouch!
Time to stock up; bread, cheese, salami, fruit and time to go.
Mont Blanc looms; and we’re going straight through it, via the tunnel; euro 33.50 – ouch! encore!
But it saves us a huge loop through the mountains and the view of the glacier as we exit on the Aosta side is almost worth the euros.
The game plan is to pick up race route at Pre-Saint-Didier but we’re a bit trepidatious; on the Ivanov stage, we stumbled onto race route on our way to see Craig Geater.
The cop was hard core; “Non! attendre!”
It’s an anti-climax, the young lady gives us a smile and lifts the tapes for us to slide the Citroen under.
We’re on the approach to the climb of Petit Saint Bernard and soon in La Thule, with it’s crazy dancers.
Just up the hill is the pizzeria and bar, La Remise, around five K from the top, the wine is two euros a cup, the sun is out, there’s a DJ playing “chill,” Matt Conn is emailing race updates – perfect!
Before we know it the caravan is upon us; we soon fill the swag bag – Martin tries to claim the glory for the second pack of Cochonou sausages, but I soon straighten him out!
The breakdown truck announces the end of the caravan as we compare spoils – the Cofidis folding shopping bag is actually quite handy.
Team cars start to zoom by, but not before my second glass of red and the DJ has upped the tempo; right on cue, Lady Ga Ga blasts, “Poker face!” Just as Patrick Lefevre drives by with a poker face that looks like it was chipped off one of the glaciers – no stage wins, Tom’s in a disco somewhere and there’s no Gert Steegmans to pull a rabbit out the hat on the Champs Elysйes.
Picnic time; we munch our bread, cheese, ham, salami, apricots and Swiss chocolate; washed down with Vittel – Martin said I’d had enough wine.
And there’s the announcer’s car; “Pellizotti et Van Den Broeck а la tete de la course!” There’s the buzz of photog bikes, then that little lull – and there they are. Pello has done a job today, max points over the Grand Saint Bernard and he’ll do the same at the top of this one.
They’re on top of the job, not flying, but a good rhythm.
A gap, just seconds, a Cofidis and a Cervйlo – Moinard and Roulston, we think.
Another little gap, a clutch of riders, maybe five, Astarloza; and one is Nicolas Roche – good boy!
There’s one’s and two’s – Laurens Ten Dam; he must be feeling better.
More daylight, and here are the Heads – charging; The Schlecks, Contador, Wiggins, Kloden and Nibali.
The Italians have been telling us how good the “The Shark” is, for a few years now – at last, there’s evidence.
Lance isn’t there, neither is Evans or Sastre.
But they’re not far behind.
The race is spread all over the mountain; a group of four Garmins ride past – Dave Millar is one – with Danny Pate and Ryder Hesjedal. The Scot is wasted, head slumped between his shoulders.
The Swiss cow bells clang encouragement, but I doubt he can hear them.
Pippo and Ballan lead a gruppetto; Cav is even further back.
I want to wait for Kenny Van Hummel, then amble back to the bar; that two euro vino is hitting the spot.
“No, we have to tuck in on the team cars, now!” says mon ami. What this actually means is; “I love chasing the team cars down mountain descents!”
I strap in and it’s “crazy” time to the top – there’s The Devil, a Bishop, drunk Dutch guys stop the Skil car; “where’s Kenny? we wait for Kenny! we push him good!”
Basque guys stop the Euskaltel car to ask about ‘their’ boys.
The scenery is amazing but the bike born crazies have started, dropping, barely in control towards the stragglers – and us!
There are Aussie Crazies, Dutch clowns and at the top; the Skil soigneur waits for Kenny – half of France is worried about that man!
And this is the bit I don’t like; as the Euskaltel car drops like a brick in front of us – until Garmin muscles in, that is.
Hairpin follows hairpin, tyres screech, brakes squeal, clutches fry and I’m thinking; “what happened to my mellow mood?”
Again, i’m reminded of how tough it is to be a pro – a horrible 20 K plus slog up the mountain, then a crazy descent in 30 degree heat.
The signs count down – 20; 15; 10; 5 and at last – the flame rouge.
The last couple of hundred are technical, but I can’t see it being a sprint.
The deviation, off course – Andy Schleck rides through the chaos in his gleaming fresh, white jersey, one of the Skils goes past – jeez, I hope Kenny made the cut!
We pass an Aussie fan; “who won, pal?”
“Euskaltel guy, Astarloza.”
Martin tells me; “I really enjoyed that drive!”
I wonder if there’s a bus back to La Remise.
PEZ Tweets: Be sure to sign up for our PEZ Twitter Feed at Twitter.com/PezCycling