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Tour de Pez: One Last Hurrah!
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.




Abandon the car at the salle de presse, jump on the Metro, three or four stops; Rue de Rivoli.





Our timing is perfect, the caravan is just arriving as we emerge, blinking, into the sunlight.



There’s the Eifel Tower and the Obelisk – what a city!





The Rue de Rivoli; maybe not as busy as I’ve seen it, but the diners are out, paying too much for their lunch- but what the hell? it’s Le Tour.



Martin has to buy tee-shirts; last year he bought what he thought was size 10, transpired that it was age 10, never mind.



The concierge at Le Meurice is appalled at all these people outside his hotel; so vulgar!



Across the road, the Ferris wheel spins, oblivious to all the fuss below.



The hire bikes aren’t shifting today, surprising, given that it’s hard to move in a car.

The only thing about this fan lark is that it’s hard to get ‘clean’ shots – there are hands and heads all over the place.



Jean D’Arc looks a little unhappy to have that TV camera in her face and all these people around her – it’s stressful, love, for sure.



We head out of the throng, for a beer – a snip at eight euros each; how do they do it so cheap?

On the TV in the bar opposite, I can see Bert wrapping a Spanish flag around himself as he rides – Lance will hate that.

Time to race watch; the human tide is hard to fight against, but we find our spot at end of the bridge over the Seine.

The lady beside us is from Boston, she’s been standing in the sun for three-an-a-half hours to see the Tour; “is Lance winning?” she enquires.

We tell her he’s third; she replies: “that’s not bad, he’s an old guy now, isn’t he?”

I wouldn’t say that to him, if I were you, my dear!





The bateaux mouche are working hard on the river and so are the cops, the Texan’s presence puts an edge on security that wasn’t here last year.







There are the cars, the bikes, the lull, then the chopper – Zubeldia leads Astana in, tradition has it that the leader’s team makes the first passage at the head of affairs; and Lance still shadows Bert – relax, dude.



The break goes quickly, seven riders – Dumoulin, Wegman, Coyot, Beppu – we think, but it’s lap two of the circuit before see them, we miss a lap due to the sheer weight of humanity that you have to shift to move around the circuit.



We pass a one ban band – Alberto Contador knows about them.



Columbia are on the front already, but not at 100% and Hushovd is enjoying the free ride.

The Champs circuit is deceptively hard; having ridden it once, two years ago – that drag up to the Arc de Triomphe is sore, believe me.



Bert’s near the front – taking no chances; strangely, Lance is well back the string, not like him. Lap three and it’s status quo, Dumoulin looks even smaller than usual on the wide open spaces along the Quai.

Behind, Columbia cruise – everyone has too clear a mental picture of how this day is likely to end, to help the men in yellow.

But the stress of having to fight for our pictures every lap is beginning to tell; we try for a better spot but can’t find one, jeez, this fan business isn’t so easy. Columbia are keeping the gap at the same margin – 25/30 seconds as the carbon rims bang and rattle over the cobbles; Cav’s team make it look easy, but this has to tell, and still no other team will help.





The Seine is beautiful today, the boats, the museums, the Tower, the bridges – glorious!





Another lap and still Columbia drive; it’s hard to imagine Cav letting his guys down at the line after they’ve given him this work rate.

Hushovd shadows him, like a green bear on wheels off one of the Haribo wagons in the caravan.



There are two to go and the gap is slipping away for the break; Fumy says “sayonara” to his erstwhile honourable friends and makes a solo bid – it’s doomed, of course, but Fumy has been listening when DS Rudi Kemna talks about “bravura!” Cav’s guys are starting to die, slipping back the string, along with the Astanas – job done!



The bell lap and its Garmin showing, can Tyler Farrar finish it in style for the sat nav guys; will they guide him to the line, first?

Wiggins puts to use that power that makes him the fastest man in the world over four kilometres – and it’s ‘all for Tyler!’

Way peer across the Place de la Concord; it’s hard to pick out jerseys in the bright July sun, but I can see orange and yellow.

We can just about see the giant screen; it’s Columbia – Cavendish leading, I think.

But he seems to be going from way, way out – Daniel Mangeas booms from the PA; “Marrk Cav-en-deesh!”

That’s six, it was never really going to end any other way, I suppose.



Time to go, we walk along the Seine, a guy paints his house boat; the Tour may be over, but life in Paris goes on.

Until next year; merci et au revoir.




 

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