By Kimberly Bruckner
The French police that have been assigned to this Tour have been the most professional staff I’ve ever encountered. They’ve done a superb job of keeping the roads safe, waving flags around all hazards, and guding the whole race caravan smoothly throughout the country. We’ve never had one problem with a random car that has snuck onto the course.
The “gendarmerie” have traveled with us throughout the entire race, and during each transfer after the stage, we often see them speeding up behind us in groups of four. They draft very well off each other with their motorcycles! My teammate Ina Teutenberg told me there are several ranks of gendarmerie in France, and the highest ranks are usually assigned to the big cycling races.
I really admire our staff even though they are not the highest ranking. Ina said the gendarmerie assigned to the men’s Tour de France is usually the same staff that follows the French president around. It shows you where cycling ranks in this country! Another nice thing about having the gendarmerie with our race is that they allow our cars to zip down the French roads way over the speed limit. They understand how important it is to get to the next hotel as quickly as possible. It’s kind of like having diplomat-status immunity.
On stage 13, our 17km neutral began next to the huge cathedral in Chartres. I’d been told that Pierre receives money from each little village we go through and that’s why he has ridiculously long neutrals. But that reasoning didn’t make any sense today as our neutral didn’t pass through any villages whatsoever. We were in the middle of farm country … I could have been in Kansas for all I knew.
It was slow and hot, but luckily we stopped 1km before the end of the neutral so we could all take a pee break. That’s got to be a rather funny-looking sight to any bystander — 80 women suddenly dropping their bikes, dropping their shorts, and squatting on the side of the road.
The final day of the men’s Tour de France always seems to be a parade day. GC is usually set by this time and the guys are content to ride it into Paris, and then race the final circuits once they’re in the city. This was not to be with the women. A lot of us were HOPING it would, but we figured it wouldn’t play out that way. I knew it was going to be a long day when I looked down at my computer to see how far we’d gone and it only said 1.83 kilometers. Only 131 to go.
In the crosswinds, two non-GC contenders slipped off the front rather early — Danielle Veronesi (Edilsavino), and Emma James (Ca Mante la Ville). Girls continued to attack, trying to go with them, but everyone was chased down. Nothing was getting away again.
I was content for a while from my vantage point at the back, but once the crosswinds got worse, I moved up as I was afraid of getting gapped off when the field was completely strung out. I moved my way up to the front and tried to go with some attacks around the mid-way sprint line. Then I heard Ina call me to the back again to pick up my Coke that she had gotten for me from the follow car. I think she’s just making me practice moving in the field from the back to the front and back again.
Ina always plans her attacks perfectly, and this one was like poetry in motion. Around the 68km mark, there was a lull in the field moving up a hill, as many of the teams had just gotten feeds and were handing off bottles. Ina came flying up behind me, handed me a Coke, stood up out of her saddle, and was gone. I saw Rasa Polikiveute get on her wheel along with Madeleine Lindberg from Farm Frites and I knew their break was going away. It did. Almost immediately, they had 38 seconds on the group and before we knew it, they had caught and passed the two girls that had been off the front all day.
At the mountain sprint, 88km into the race, Rasa attacked the break and only Ina could go with her. The remaining three stayed between the front two and the field for the rest of the day. It was interesting listening to the girls talk in the field — everyone was positive that Ina would win. There wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind. How nice having a teammate like that!
Vlanderen was chasing in vain, for what I’m not completely sure. Despite their full team chase, the time gaps just kept increasing. It was a blessing for Judith and I, as well as the rest of the field. With Vlanderen chasing, the rest of us were content to just follow behind and be carried in to the finish.
Ina easily outsprinted Rasa for the stage win, her second stage win this Tour. When Judith and I crossed the line and met Ina at the car, we found a very happy Ina with a HUGE smile on her face. The first thing she said to us was, “My tour is over. I’m going out tonight to celebrate!”
She deserves it. Of course, she’s still planning on riding the TT on Sunday. She may just ride it with a hangover. ††
From the start of La Grande Boucle, our team had big plans to go out on this night, now that we’re finally in Paris and only have an 8km TT on Sunday. But now that we’ve finally arrived in the big city of lights, nobody (except Ina of course!) feels like paryting. We’re all too tired. We’ve lost half our team and staff, and the general consensus is that we all just want to go to bed. Lucky for Ina, Anna Millward and Chris Witty are meeting us in Paris tonight. They’ll still be up for some dancing.
Me? Maybe Sunday.
Stage 13 results
1. Ina Teutenberg, Saturn2. Rasa Polikiveute, Acca Duo s.t.3. Madeleine Lindberg, Farm Frites 3:53
GC remains the same.