So after a fitful night sleep in the horribly small room...we woke up excited to see Stage 2. Let me digress, the room was clean yes, but that was the only redeeming quality. Tiny. worn, uncomfortable bed, tiny bathroom...and the list goes on. But the location rocked, 2 blocks from the team buses. start and finish of Stage 1 and start of Stage 2. The staff was so hospitable and nice, all is good.
Started with the cafe au lait, we have come to love and a baguette and butter. Off to see the boys. With a 12:00 start we were down near the teams by 11 and it was steaming activity. Cars being loaded up, stacked bikes, wheel sets and parts we could not even see. It is hard not to drool over all the top of the line gear, absolutely stunning. Another triathlete once said to me that bikes and wheels like what we saw, were his version of pornography. Hard not to get excited. I keep thinking, just one quick spin....or they would never miss 1 bike. The custom bikes are so amazing, Lance of course has a tricked out paint job on his, Cancellera was riding a yellow bike to honor his yellow jersey ride. The many custom paint jobs on the zipp or HED wheel sets were too cool. Many of the Americans had Red/Wht/Blue and it looked pretty cool. The riders were all over and very close and most very personable to all. They were talking, signing whatever fans asked and as we approached the start they began getting on the bikes and riding the 500M to the start. They all rode right past us and it was great, waiving, acknowledging the crowds. Lance was the only one with a few body guards but he waived and said hello to all.
We saw the mass start from a distance as we hung back a bit too long waiting to see Lance and Contador. It was great to see the peleton heading up the road under the arch and off to Montpellier.
We headed out of town soon thereafter in search of a midway point. Our major issue is that we have car problems... to put it succincingly when you change gears (manual transmission) the engine rotates and sounds like it is going to fall out. According to John, after checking it out, one of the brackets that holds the engine broke. After multiple unsuccessful calls to the rental car company we finally learned due to the holidays they local companies do not have any cars. It took John many hours of calls after calls only to find out our only solution is to take it to a VW dealer and get it fixed. And of course it is Sunday and all the dealers are closed. So we are driving a car that sounds like the engine may drop out at any time. Scary indeed. With the problems John did the driving which left me to navigate and well that is the wrong combination. I am the driver and John is the navigator. So we had a very trying day....only to get to our first rendezvous spot to find a massive traffic jam and lear that we most likely missed the riders. Onto the 2nd spot and well we underestimated how fast these guys ride...25-27K per hour.
The frustration level was mounting and we bailed out and decided to head to the finish. En route John realized we were near a viewing spot and according to the schedule we were right on time. He dropped us off and we found a spot on the route. John soon joined us and we waited for 10-15 minutes in the hot, hot sun. Official car, after car, motorcycle after motorcycle came by. Soon we saw the helicopter and knew they were on the way. It was so fast.... the lead pack had 4 riders and the peleton was a few minutes back, this was the point they were gaining on the breakaway riders. And 2 poor riders were 3+ minutes back. It was exhilarating and so very fun!!
It was soon over and we were back in the car. By this time, we decided to head to a point we wanted to be for stage 3. Off we went and it was hours of pain full driving, only to then try and find another spot, only to then go back to the original spot in Arles, France.
We have been sleeping in total dive hotels that cost well over $200. I used the trusty Michelin Guide and the description seemed to good to be true. We are skeptical and very wary....we arrived to what seemed and Oasis. On the Rhone, stunning rooms, 1 large King Bed and a nice bed for Riley . Huge rooms, separate toilet from the bath, a pool (unheard of) and we are so very happy. We made an error and ate on the way to the hotel only to find a stunning Courtyard with candles and delicious fare.
First on the list were showers....nice big shower, lots of soap and I sent Riley to the bar for a nice glass of Chardonnay. No problem, shes 13 and its France and she returns and all is good...