Day 11 ? Tuesday, July 11
IF the Tour de France would just stop moving for a moment, we?d be okay.
Give us a flamin? chance. The Broomwagon starts rattling at 50kph, all the cupboard doors fly open at 70kph and things fall off it when it hits the ton. So, when the race is heading due south at 50kph it doesn?t really give us much of chance to keep up.
So, we decided to cut a bit of a corner ? head to Bordeaux for the entirely civilized 1pm start, then drive down to the gateway of the Pyrenees ready for the first mountain stage.
It was a brilliant plan, or it would have been had the race route not passed by the driveway of our campsite. The roads were set to close at 10am, meaning that instead of a chance to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and a read of the paper, we were hurtling into town in a taxi before the Gendarmes got a chance to stop us.
?It?s a short Tour de France this year,? said the taxi driver. Confused I said that it was three weeks long as usual. ?Yes, but big stages by aeroplane. The riders are tired without their vitamins,? he laughed.
Ed had left the camper van at the crack of dawn to go to Bordeaux airport so he could enjoy a few days at home. It?s certainly not that we were happy to see him go but last night was the first where we have squeezed four people into the supposed seven-berth camper van. Frankly, four is the limit. Any more and we?d be welcoming Norris McWhirter to present some sort of Guinness World Record.
It had been a roasting hot night and no one slept well. That was made all the more galling by the fact we had forgotten to turn on the air-conditioning, which, though noisy, does keep the van relatively comfortable.
Our hot, grumpy faces were met by the cheery Andy ?Ibis? Jones. He emerged refreshed from a relaxing night in a perfectly reasonable Ibis chain hotel. Andy is excused van duty because he has cameras that need charging up every night [like some of the riders ? ho, ho, just kidding legal eagles]. With only one power socket in the van that would make things slightly tricky, and my suggestion that he uses a Kodak disposable camera didn?t go down too well the other day.
Andy loves a good Ibis. You know what you?re going to get at an Ibis, even if that is wholly predictable and rather bland food, and the same paintings in the hallways. Even the staff look the same. Perhaps they are all the same, because they recognise Andy, although that could be because in July Andy becomes Ibis? number one customer. If there is some kind of reward scheme on offer for brand loyalty, Andy deserves it. First prize: a weekend?s stay in an Ibis of his choice.
At the start, Simon and I took the great Cycle Sport charity sign-on board to the presentation podium to gather the remaining signatures. The operation was a big success. One by one the teams arrived to wave at the crowd, one by one we checked them off our list and poked the board under the noses of the riders we still needed. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Big Lycra-clad fish.
With a few minutes to the off we needed just one signature ? Luca Paolini.
We split up and searched for the Liquigas sprinter. Then, just as the hooter went to signal the off, he passed by Simon and I. Sadly, Tom Simpson had the board. Our search for Luca goes on. Let?s just hope he doesn?t pack in the Pyrenees.
Our Tour experience for the day was to stop in the small town of Roquefort and watch on TV in a café, before driving on, and on, and on to Oloron.
After a quick dinner in town we arrived back at camper van at set our alarms for five thirty. Yes. Five. Thirty.
Day 11 ? Tuesday, July 11