Monday, July 20, 2009

TDF 2009: Rest Day Stage 15/ 16: Fans Choose their Favorites

Today is a well-deserved rest day for the teams, and perhaps even for the people following the tour, the caravanes de publicite, the soigneurs, the handlers, the press and the fans.

Many, many people, a number that it is impossible to estimate, are following the tour in cars and mobile homes. All along the route the homes are parked the night before a stage. They come from all around the world, but especially Europe, the United States, and parts of South America.

Sisters Erin and Tobey Davis traveled from Atlanta, Georgia for their second Tour this year. They were standing around the entrance for Teams at the start in Colmar two days ago, looking for an opportunity to "see the boys," said Tobey.
Fans cheering the riders after the finish, Verbier (Benepe, (C))

Their favorite guys? "The Z man," David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde was a close second, Thor Hushovd, "love him," and Fabian Cancellara: "I think he cried when he won the Time Trial [in Monaco], --he's a sensitive jersey hot guy." And of course, they love to look at their legs.

"It is so much fun, there is nothing like it in the world," said Tobey who is a Cat. 1 mountain biker back home. She didn't bring her bike because her sister does not ride, and wanted to make sure they were together for the whole trip.

They have also met a lot of crazy people she said who are also following the race: "we see the same people at all the stages," she noted. People were even having fun on the Col de Platzerwasel before Colmar, when it was pouring rain, and everyone was so drenched they could have been miserable.

This group of friends was heading up the mountain from Martigny, about 25 Km.

This time they booked ahead which made their whole experience easier, but the sisters plan on spending the night before the second to last stage at the finish on Mont Ventoux. Do they have sleeping bags? No, they will be using blankets unknowingly donated by KLM for that night. Bonne chance!

Thousands of cyclists took to the mountain yesterday, including two who wore the CILO jerseys (pictured above) of Hugo Koblet, a Swiss rider and winner of the 1951 Tour de France. Among the riders were Ferdy Kirbler who wrote the book about Koblet, "Le pedaleur de charme," and C. Sprecher, and Peter Sihuydur, pictured in the CILO jerseys, would make it to the top later in the day.

BBB also forgot her bike shoes, and picked up a pair for 159 Swiss Francs--about $130 at a local store that the receptionist at the Touring Hotel swore was closed--but which was open all day.

The two young owners, including Martin Born (pictured), had created a spread of food for riders who might pass by, and were doing a brisk business. They also sold great Swiss-made Craft clothing at what might have been a discount to U.S. prices

On the way up to Verbier fans had camped out all along the route, and by around 2 pm when BBB was heading up along the 25 km route to the top, many had already hit the bottle, and were shouting, making catcalls, whistling, and honking enormous handheld horns. Men dressed in crazy pink bear outfits lay on the ground, others stood around singing in punch-happy unison.

The cyclists who made the ride from Martigny stopped along various parts along the route, resting any bike they had along the barriers, from the most expensive road bike, to the cheapest mountain bike. It was the best way to travel up and see just how hard the ride would be, and also to find an easier and quicker way down when the stage was over.

BBB traveled to the top by bike and got to experience first hand how tough the end of this stage was. In the boiling sun, it was enough to break even the most experienced rider. The worst segment overall was the three kilometers from the bottom of the last 10. It's after those three that Contador left his entourage in the dust.

Children played and put their hands out to be slapped as BBB made her way up the mountain, women called out "allez-y" (go on), and "bravo!" and cheered, and men called out affectionate terms, mostly unprintable or unintelligible.

Further up almost every inch of roadway was chalked with favorite names, Schleck, Cancellara, --and many other names of riders who probably would have no chance of winning. Didn't matter, they were favorites.

It was a raucous circus that became almost untolerable as BBB neared the top: how can any rider go through this without being distracted?
Brice Feillu being interviewed at top of Verbier (Benepe (C))

The trip down was even more spectacular, with thousands of riders winding their way down, only to meet hordes of trailers, trucks, cars, and motorcyclists in the last 10 kilometers. BBB and a few other fearless riders road along the left line, in the divider, watching for traffic coming all the way. It was a magnificent end to the day.

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