It ain’t cheap traversing France by autoroute, the tolls came to 50 Euros and sandwiches are five euros a hit – but we still have processed cheese and Nutella left from lunch on the Tourmalet – a baguette costs one euro, that’s better.
We’ve decided to go to the start, pick up on that ‘party vibe’ – but it’s strangely ‘flat,’ maybe it’s because Longjumeau ain’t the most elegant of places?
We started work for the day with a wander round the team bus park.
Wez Sulzberger’s Lapierre has a nice line in Aussie ‘trick’ paint jobs and his name on the seat tube – it looks nicer than is sounds.
We like the Euskaltel Orcas and will be running a feature on Samuel Sanchez’s bike, soon.
The Lotto Canyons have neat chain retainers which come down of the bottle cage boss, nice.
Ale Jet hasn’t gone too over the top with the green theme.
The same can’t be said for Charteau’s ‘small pox’ Colnago – and the virus has passed to the team car.
And over at Astana the Specialized air brushers have been working over time – Vino has a nationalistic theme to his machine whilst Alberto’s is, unsurprisingly, yellow.
On a clammy morning with more ‘creded-up’ fans and media than ever admitted to the bus park, those air-conned coaches were the best option for many officials and riders, but a few were out to brave the loaded questions, hat hunters and autograph requests.
Russian hard man Serguei Ivanov had his glasses on – they soften his look from KGB man to university professor.
BBox manager, Jean Rene Bernadeau was holding court; with two stage wins and king of the mountains he’s on cloud nine.
Astana manager, Yvon Sanquer was floating even higher than that.
Jim Ochowitz wasn’t so happy over at BMC, with little to show for their first Tour.
We grabbed a quick word with Columbia’s Rolf Aldag; ‘Yes, we’re hoping Mark can win today, but we’re not expecting any help from anyone else!’
The man himself sat on the bus step, giving an interview to a TV crew – that look was in his eye.
Longjumeau tried its best for the day and there were more polka dots on the apartment block walls.
But it’s hard to disguise the concrete that’s all around
But soon we’re among fields of grain and maize – only 15 or so kilometres from the Champs Йlysйes.
Then it’s ‘the projects’ – huge concrete apartment blocks, outside the Peripherique (Paris ring road), but part of Greater Paris, all the same.
The buildings get less brutalist as we ease into Paris.
And in no time we’re crossing the Seine, the view that gives even the Tour veterans goose bumps – Gustav Eiffel’s most famous creation.
Fans line the bridges and Liberty appears on the river – a scaled down version of the big lady over in New York.
On to the circuit and the number of fans goes critical mass, Norway, Spain, Luxembourg, Australia, Wales – and some guy called Lance.
Time to park up among the grandeur of Paris – as up on the giant screen our chum Craig Geater, The Shack mechanic, gives Lance a hand to re-pin his number after the ‘jerseygate’ stunt – the gold dome of Les Invalides glistens in the background.
We fight the sea of humanity up the Champs Йlysйes to take a different view of the le Tour, from the first floor window of up market restaurant, Fouquet’s.
Swiss, Robert Decrot and English man Dan Maker of top end cycle tours company, Eurocycler have invited PEZ to watch the finale of the Tour from the splendor of Fouquet’s dining room.
Their tours aren’t for those who have tight budgets, more for those who demand the best and are prepared to pay for it.
This year the party rode five of the major Pyreneean cols but missed out the Bordeaux stages to be properly prepared for their six course lunch overlooking the Champs.
You can watch the break hurtle past, the Columbia-driven bunch in hot pursuit, then catch the rest of the lap on TV.
Eurocycler also do early season Spanish training camps where Dan’s mentor, former British road race champion and Tour de France rider, Colin Lewis comes along to teach the guests ‘grinta.’
The laps count down and the break is reeled back – now there’s a surprise.
Despite the big bunch, it’s easy to pick out Lance and Bert.
There’s a crowd around the TV as Cav makes it look easy, again.
And time for PEZ to make our apologies, we need to feel the barriers digging in to our forearms – and there are other advantages.
One of the most unique and wonderful things about the Tour finalй is the laps of honour on the Champs where every rider gets his moment of glory and personal memories of the conclusion of a job well done.
Suitably wedged against the fence, we sat down to enjoy the show.
Dan Lloyd and Jez Hunt smiled for the first time I’m three weeks.
Robbie McEwen smiled too, as he rode with DS and former worlds pro road race medalist, Dimitri Konyshev.
The Australian didn’t win a stage but battled hard through injury and illness for his lap of honour.
Garmin’s Tour ended well with Ryder well in the top ten; the big Canadian waved to his fans, Davie Zee looked pensive and Martijn Maaskant had a Heineken.
French hero Pierrick Fedrigo gave us a wave, whilst fellow French cavalier, Tommy Voeckler stopped to sign autographs, just along the fence.
Cav was ‘at it’ even on the lap of honour, whilst mentor, Erik Zabel borrowed a Canyon for his spin.
Sammy Sanchez looked despondent, not surprising after the podium was plucked from his grasp, yesterday at Bordeaux.
Lance looked sad, whilst an equally sad looking Frank Schleck joined his little brother for the lap of honour.
Andy seemed to be having fun, but not as much as team mate Chris Sorensen.
And then it was the star of the show – Alberto Contador winner of his third Tour de France to add to his Giro and Vuelta.
The barrier crews are at work before we’re back at the car.
Anything else left to be done? Just for Cav to add another ‘kill’ to his top tube.
Thanks for reading, it was hard work, but we loved it.
Au revoir from Ed and Dave.