Thursday, July 17, 2008

Viva la Tour! Stage 10: Pau-->Hautacam

After a night in Lourdes visiting my roomate Jean-Michael and family, Kristen and I headed out (6:30 a.m.) with Jean-Michael's neighbor and his buddy Dominick to take in Stage 10 of the TOUR with the summit finish of the mighty Hautacam mountain (1520 meters)! This would be the first epic stage of the Tour with a pass over the Col d'Tourmalet and then a finish on top of the Hautacam. We parked at the bottom and began the 3.5 hour walk up the mountain, fully loaded with a picnic and some fresh baguettes! Gosh, I love the French way of life.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, finally! Only 1 kilometer left to go. What a view! If you can climb up a mountain, you can do just about anything else in your life.
I finally got one of the super cool Skoda caps that I tried to get from the caravan after two days of following the TOUR. The crowd slowly made its way up the mountain througout the day and pretty soon, the crowd would swell to 1000's of people on the summit. Not to forget the tens of thousands all the way down to the bottom. Celebrity sightings included TOUR hero Miguel Indurain and once again Phil Ligget. We camped out right in front of the big screen at the 30 meter mark, had a classic French picnic with pate, jambon sandwiches, pomme frites (french fries), Tomme de Pyrenees (cheese), Bordeaux Rose and Red wine, and water from the famous grote (mountain spring) in Lourdes.
I got a cool video of Leonardo Piepoli and Jose Cobo sprinting past us for the stage victory and caught this awesome pic of American podium placer Christian Vandevelde leading the contenders to the finish line. I was never more amazed at how fast these guys go up the slopes of these mountains and am fully committed to never trying to be a professional athlete after seeing it live in person. Still wonder about those Saunier Duval guys as they got kicked out of the TOUR 3-days later for Ricardo Ricco getting busted for EPO. This drug use sure does lesson the experience as hero's in this sport are more villians than victors some times.
Kim Kirchen fought valliantly, but lost his yellow jersey and that cool painted Giant with matching bar tape. I was very sad for Frank Schleck as the results showed that he was 1 second from the yellow jersey which passed over to Cadel Evans. On the flight home, we met a CSC-Saxo Bank Team PR-representative who was riding in one of the team cars this day. He said that Frank was almost in tears as his chance to wear the Yellow jersey slipped through his fingers. He also said to watch out cause the team has some big plans set for the Alps and you are going to see CSC-Saxo Bank tear this TOUR apart in the second part of the TOUR. Can't wait to see it back in America listening to my new friends, Phil Sherwen and Paul Ligget on Versus.

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