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By Christian Vande Velde, Liberty-Seguros Professional Cycling
It has been a few years since I’ve been racing in the Tour de France and most certainly a few years since I have been in a breakaway at the Tour. Today was a cool experience.
The Tour is unlike any other race in that there are spectators all the way along the course and cameramen on motorcycles capturing the expressions of all riders whether in the front or at the back. The helicopters above film every movement of the race as well. In the air at one time there are at least four helicopters buzzing around- a few covering the race with cameras and others ensuring the road is properly closed not allowing any traffic into the race. When I am racing I am not really aware of any of it but sometimes catch it all for a moment and realize all that is going on around the race.
When it’s hot – and it was hot today – it is hard to drink enough and get enough food down. You basically only realize that you haven’t eaten enough when you start to feel a little dizzy and get goose bumps all over your body. In the last hour of the race today I started to feel like a goose out there as I became dehydrated and tired from the efforts of the race and challenges of the course.
I began to drift off and tried to ride with Ullrich as he came blasting by. After a while, though, I fell back and soon Lance’s group came charging up with Floyd setting a ripping tempo on the climb. He looked over at me and told me to get on his wheel if I didn’t want to be dropped. I took his advice and hung on.
The Postal team was impressive once again today, keeping Lance well protected in the front of the race and setting a tempo so strong nobody could attack and if they did try an attack they didn’t get far up the road.
Looking ahead to tomorrow
The roads and countryside around this area are incredible. Tonight we’re in Grenoble and the valleys and mountains around are green and plush. It is great for cycling around here. But, damn, the racing is hard.
Tomorrow we have an uphill TT up Alpe d’Huez that will be interesting. I think a few of the sprinters will have a hard time making the time cut of 33 percent, as I know some of the climbers are going to fly up the mountain.
No doubt we’ll see some surprises in the next couple of days of racing. Ullrich seems to be finding his form in the mountains and is sure to move up a few spots in the next days. It seems as though a lot of riders are really tired now as the peloton is splitting up quickly. As predicted this race will be between the guys that have saved their energy well in the first part of the race.
Lance is back in yellow that won’t really make much difference to the race as his team has been riding like he’s been in yellow for the last week. They have kept the race in control as Brioche la Boulangere couldn’t really do too much in the high mountains.
Tonight, I am looking forward to a good massage, a big dinner of nasty white French pasta and a good sleep. At least we can sleep in a bit tomorrow as the time trial is in the afternoon.
Time trial days are never really as restful as I try and lead myself to believe. They might be short in actual race time but all the preparation, warm-up etc, ends up making the day seem a whole lot longer than a road stage. At least the crowds will be insane and it’ll feel like I am riding in the center of the stadium during a bowl game.
Earlier entriesRestDay No.2