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Tour de Pez: The First Sprint!
Roadside St.2: The riders were just getting started but we opted for a more relaxed day after the frenzied opening salvo in Monaco. Our hotel, rebooked after our original choice had fallen through, turned out to be just a couple of hundred yards from the very first PMU sprint of the race! Pretty obvious where to position ourselves today…

The evidence was just at the end of the road as we went to move our car … road ahead closed, something big is about to hit town.

First though, a little about our town for the last four nights. The Hotel Acanthe sits at the end of the Rue Chauvin, just off the Place Massena – the premiere hang-out spot in Nice.

It’s all very civilised with trams to carry revellers and commuters alike, and those same trams saved our legs from some long treks in the heat.

The glowing Buddhas added a certain calm to the sultry air, especially as they all randomly changed color over different time frames.

We had a little stroll, at no pace, down the Promenade des Anglais – rooms starting at 300 Euros, a ‘gentleman’s entertainment club’ offering champagne Methusalahs at 11,000 Euros! Not sure if it was a misprint, and no, I didn’t go in to check.

You’ll have to accept this photo of a jazz trumpeter as evidence.

After the hectic rush of pre-race press conferences, long days in the salle de press, travelling along the Mediterranean coast, it was high time for a relaxing day on the Promenade des Anglais.

A brief hang out on the beach as we waited for the race saw us down l’eau at a rate that would have needed a domestique to go back to the team car.

There were fans of all shapes and sizes, with flags of every hue, with a heavy proportion of Aussies and South Africans.

This was a day for families today, with scores of Mum/Dad/Kid(s) combos up and down the barriers which you could see all along the Promenade des Anglais.

Even attractive young ladies were grabbing the water .. after all, you don’t get much for nothing in this life!

The official merchandisers had done a roaring trade keeping everyone stocked with Tour-branded gear.

The kids were getting really excited as the caravan approached, eagerly racing around for any freebie that hit the ground. This little chap braved (if that’s how you define it) the road, snatching up a hat in a gap between passing giant lions and giraffes.

Next to me, two young brothers were getting thoroughly into the spirit, with one decked out in official merchandise …

… and his brother, a little older and more confident, showing off his hat-trick of freebie casquettes.

As the kids buzzed about, parents readied cameras, applied sunscreen, stashed away the freebies the children had dropped already. The race is coming soon. For some, the day was already a bit long and a bit hot!

Excitement comes in waves, just like the water lapping the beach just below the Promenade, where it was 25°. Celsius, not Fahrenheit, otherwise I could have thought I was back home. these bathers seemed unconcerned that the Tour was arriving imminently, but, then I guess its OK to try and act cool on another scorching day.

The boards started getting a hammering, the thundersticks going, the crowd straining forward … and then they were there.

A Rabobank, an Ag2r … the lead quartet, not contesting the sprint, flying by.

Moments later, the main field stream through. Kurt-Asle Arvesen on the front, leading a Saxobank train, with Cancellara tucked behind a chattng O’Grady.

Tom Boonen was taking it pretty easy in the peloton.

Rabobank have had a puncture, and this guy is looking for his two team-mates, already struggling to get on terms, already with tongues wagging in the heat. It’s gonna be a long, hard Tour.

And then they were gone. It still amazes just how efficient the whole operation is. The road crew was in and dismantling the barriers and the PMU sprint banner just minutes after the last official vehicle had gone by.

The clean-up won’t take long, and what gets missed will soon be hoovered up by another souvenir hunter.

We took a little stroll back by the Place Massena, stopping off for a photo op about backing a winning horse. The horse is on the right. I’m going for Contador for the overall on yesterday’s evidence, with Cavendish for today.

We’re off to Allauch now, just north of Marseille, where we’ll pick up the race again tomorrow. Hopefully, you’re enjoying the ride with us, and we’ll bring you more tomorrow.



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