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By Rupert Guinness, Of The Australian
Editor’s Note: Aside from having a name that conjures up visionsof a nice refreshing pint, Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for the dailynewspaper The Australian. A former European correspondent for Winningand VeloNews, Guinness will be sending in a daily column from theTour.
There was only one thing more sure than Lance Armstrong’s might on twowheels in today’s prologue of the Tour de France in Luxembourg: when itcomes to predicting weather, Holstein cattle know a thing or two.Forget those frisky fat Friesians. Pretty the `Ben and Jerry’ cattlethey may be in their black and white skins. But right imposters they arewhen it comes to handing down judgment on whether the heavens will droprain or shed sun.Only 100m may have separated the two herds as they grazed on a plushgreen paddock a few kilometers outside Luxembourg City today.But on weather predictions they were poles apart.As the wily white Holsteins stood happily feeding on all fours, confidentdry weather would prevail for the Tour opener, the Friesians feasted belly-downto warm the crop beneath in readiness for a chilly downpour.To be fair, their opposing beliefs were shared further down the roadat the prologue start by most in the 3,600-strong race entourage – especiallybetween rival riders and teams as they tried to best pick the best tiresand gears for conditions that would prevail.For the record, the Holsteins were correct. Rain heavily it did beforethe start. And Sprinkle raid it did early in the race.But when it mattered – in Armstrong’s case just 10 minutes before hestarted – the cloudy skies above the Grand Duchy changed their tune.Finally, they stopped alternating in their threatening shades of greyto unleash rays of warming sunshine.If you are wondering, from here on in to the finish in Paris on July28 there will be no question among those traveling in the <i>VeloNews</i>car on which cattle breed they will place their faith in.When it comes to forecasting weather – especially for the time trialswhere judging the climate is so crucial – Holsteins simply have no peers.That, editorial director John Wilcockson told us, was a known fact.Swore blind, Wilcockson did too, that his faith in Holsteins goes backlong ago, ever since following the first of his 33 Tours in 1963.But wait, there’s more. “It is not just their grazing position thatsends the message,” revealed Wilcockson while walking from the race finishto press room, “It is the cute wink of a Holstein’s big brown eyes andheavy but subtle nod that tells the real story.”The old wink and nod. We reckon John was doing a bit of that himself.