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Vaughters’ views: And they’re off!

Finally, we're underway.The days leading up to the Tour de France, and then the prologue, arealways hectic, nervous, and, I suppose, fun.It’s the same every year: All the team's best riders are present, andall have new bikes uniforms, and glasses.... Everybody comes to dinnershaved, smelling nice, and happy. It’s quite a contrast from most otherevents where the riders seem displeased they've been dragged from theirgardening to do a damned bike race. All the Sunday-best put on displayfor the preacher.As usual, we got the blood tests, medical examinations, and such fortwo days before the

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By Jonathan Vaughters, Crédit Agricole cycling team

Finally, we’re underway.The days leading up to the Tour de France, and then the prologue, arealways hectic, nervous, and, I suppose, fun.It’s the same every year: All the team’s best riders are present, andall have new bikes uniforms, and glasses…. Everybody comes to dinnershaved, smelling nice, and happy. It’s quite a contrast from most otherevents where the riders seem displeased they’ve been dragged from theirgardening to do a damned bike race. All the Sunday-best put on displayfor the preacher.As usual, we got the blood tests, medical examinations, and such fortwo days before the prologue, and whether you like it or not, this generallytakes up the better part of the day. We always get weighed, EKG-ed, ourpulse, blood pressure and physiological status evaluated.If we are declared “healthy”, then we get to go ahead and take a fewyears off our life span and do the least healthy sporting eventin the world.Last night we had the team presentation, which was quite a circus withall the important people clapping for bike riders. This time, Scorpionplayed showing the true class of a professional cycling event of this caliber.It gives me goose bumps every time, even though I’ve been through allthis before. I suppose I just still can’t believe I ever made it to thelevel of getting to do the Tour.
 
So, today we hit the streets of Luxembourg, riding the course for acouple of hours in the morning. This was especially crucial this year,because of the remarkably complicated course. We tried a few differentwheel and bike combinations to see what feels best before heading backto the hotel to relax a little before the start.We’ve decided not to use disc wheels, since they weigh more, and fora course with so many repeated accelerations, we figured it was a disadvantage.Most of the peloton didn’t see it this way, but any which way on this courseit won’t make much of a difference.I rode okay in the prologue itself, but I still faced slightly wet conditions,so I was a bit timid in the corners. Otherwise I felt fresh, but not sharp.I guess I’m getting older and it’s harder to get the diesel warmed up.Happily I still have three more weeks for it to kick in.I can take solace in one area: I predicted that Lance Armstrong wouldwin the prologue this year, way back in May. And after seeing the course,I was convinced. The only thing that could have stopped him would havebeen wet roads, but it was nice and dry when he started and he slew themall.Dinner may be quiet tonight, as Christophe (Moreau), and Stuart O’Grady)rode a bit below expectations. I think the first week will be hard on Christophe,as he had to take some time off to heal from a bad crash, motor-pacingbefore the Tour.He’ll be okay by the mountains.I’m off to dinner. Good night.


Editor’s note:  Jonathan Vaughters (CréditAgricole) and Tyler Hamilton (CSC-Tiscali) will be sending in regular journalentries throughout the 2002 Tour de France