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The Guinness of Oz: What a hole!

What an absolute stinking hot hole Cap’Découverte is. I have never seen such a big hole. In fact, you will probably not find a bigger hole in Europe. And that’s a fact. Why? The simple reason is that today’s stage 12 time trial finished on the edge of a 750-foot-deep hole in the ground. In fact, the hole is a converted opencast coalmine and was once the largest of its kind in Europe. And at 35 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) with a temperature of 61 degrees C (142 degrees) on the road, it was a stinking hot place to be watching the Tour. But in all seriousness, on the centennial of

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By Rupert Guinness

What an absolute stinking hot hole Cap’Découverte is. I have never seen such a big hole. In fact, you will probably not find a bigger hole in Europe. And that’s a fact.

Why? The simple reason is that today’s stage 12 time trial finished on the edge of a 750-foot-deep hole in the ground. In fact, the hole is a converted opencast coalmine and was once the largest of its kind in Europe. And at 35 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) with a temperature of 61 degrees C (142 degrees) on the road, it was a stinking hot place to be watching the Tour.

But in all seriousness, on the centennial of this great event, it is sad that the Société du Tour de France was so willing to visit a place that lacked so much heart and soul. Sure, dollars talk. Well, euros rather, have an impact. And obviously the Tarn region through which the stage passed was able to talk enough of them — 137,000 to be precise — to secure a Cap’Découverte finish.

Re-opened in its new form on June 25, Cap’Découverte offers activities ranging from skiing to water sports. Too bad you have to descend into a pit to do them.

Now, this may all sound like grapes, because for the print media it has meant that we have been cooped up in a press center that is more like a sauna than a place to wax lyrical about.

As I write, a Tour official has announced that all media are invited — if they have finished working — to take the chairlift down and enjoy a free swim at the beach. (As if we in media accept freebies!)

My suspicion is that word is out now that I am writing what I am writing. After all, glowing with sweat I did ask one of them how much the Tarn regional council paid for the stage rights.

Harsh I may be, but peering down to the epicenter of this architectural disaster, you wouldn’t pay to enter. At the very least, if you did, you’d have to be desperate.

What I can’t understand in such a beautiful region is that, surely the Tarn could have found a place more picturesque to feel proud of promoting worldwide than one big hole.

What I can understand though is that there is a need for the Tarn region to pay for the hole’s facelift. Little wonder they hope for a repeat of 1999 when Albi hosted a finish. In the French regional paper La Depèche today, Christine Desvoisins, assistant mayor of Albi — a beautiful city 25km south of Cap’Découverte — was optimistic of the Tour’s impact.

Recalling the 1999 stage finish in Albi, Desvoisins — the president of the Albi tourist office — said, “The stage winner came in 20 minutes ahead of the peloton. The (TV) helicopter just flew around and around while waiting for the bunch. One after the other, there were beautiful images of the Palais de la Berbie, of the cathedral. Then in the days that followed, we had contact from many viewers who saw these superb images.”

Now, you can’t argue with that. But then, consider this. Which would you find more captivating: images of Albi or of a former coalmine renovated into a sports complex?

If there is anything to be said of the latter, chances are that you won’t have trouble finding the place.