Tag Archives: Tour de France

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: FORWARD

He's never had so much interest shown in his cycling technique.

He’s never had so much interest shown in his cycling technique.

We stood by the roadside in our thousands, wondering who would be first out of the tunnel when the Tour de France arrived at our vantage point.

The peloton was led by an unknown rider who’d somehow strayed onto the route on his way to work.

I applaud his efforts and offer him as my entry in this Weekly Photo Challenge. Continue reading

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CADEL WINS! – in Surhuisterveen

Cadel chats to Dutch former Tour de France winner Jan Janssen. Photo ANP.


G’day again, Cadel, and congratulations!!

Mission accomplished as you won yesterday’s criterium in Surhuisterveen, Nederland. Continue reading

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TOUR DE FRANCE – finding a big screen in the Alps

G’day again, Lance.

Here I am with some more vital Tour tips for you…

Try to get to Morzine before 8.30 on Sunday night. You and Alberto Contador should arrive ahead of the others, so the peloton will be relying on you two to find a bar and reserve 188 places in front of a big screen to watch the World Cup Final (a soccer match in South Africa). Ask Alberto to explain it to you. His team Spain will be playing so he’ll know about it.

I’ve done a search on the internet and there aren’t many big screens in Morzine. And don’t expect French TV to show the game. The French public are a bit disappointed with the way their team performed, so I understand French TV channels won’t show any live football for the next four years. All currently scheduled matches will be replaced by replays of the 1998 World Cup Final, which had a more pleasing result*.

However, Morzine is a touristy town, so you could find Sunday’s match being screened in an English pub. Or a Dutch one. Lots of visitors will be interested, so get there well before the kick-off, and take plenty of spare cycling jerseys to reserve good seats down the front.

Paul the Octopus has predicted that Spain will win, which is disappointing to me because I was supporting the Dutch. The Dutch XI have offered to turn up and go through the motions anyway, since tickets and television rights have already been sold and fans expect a bit of a show.

Once the footy is out of the way, Paul the Octopus will be able to turn his attention to Le Tour and tell you what your chances of a podium finish are like. Of course, Paul can’t talk, so he makes his opinions known by eating mussels. It will be interesting to see how well he does, choosing between 188 contending mussels, but his football predictions have been spot on. If he says you’re out of it, you may want to consider an early withdrawal.

*France 3, Brazil 0

STOP PRESS: Ooh Lance, I felt your pain as you fell, and fell behind today! I hope Schleck, Evans and Contador will find you a good vantage point for watching the big game.

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TOUR DE FRANCE – carnage on the cobblestones?

I’ll try to make this quick, Lance. It’s short notice, I know, because you’re already on the road, but I guess Mr Bruyneel has wifi and a laptop in the manager’s car and can pass my advice on to you via your earpiece. If Radio Shack can’t keep up with the latest technology, who can?

Yesterday’s stage had far too many falls, and soon you’ll soon be riding over the feared cobblestone section of the route. I see Stuart O’Grady predicted there would be ‘carnage’ there, and I think Stuart was looking forward to that. He’s good on the bumps and won the classic Paris-Roubaix over these notorious speedhumps a few years back.

I’ve learned a bit about cobbles from living in Amsterdam. That’s one of our roads above. It’s a shame my bike came out a bit dark in the picture, because I wanted you to get a good look at it. It’s exactly the sort you need for riding those rocks – solid and upright, with really thick padding on the saddle. If you don’t have one like that on top of the support vehicle, get them to rush on ahead and rent one. You can get them at any Belgian train station and they’re quite reasonably priced.

Mind you, there are worse cobblestones in this world than the ones you’ll be riding over. I tried out these ones in Tallinn, Estonia recently.

Lance, another possible reason O’Grady and I are so good on the cobbles is that Dutch, French and Belgian cobblestones are nothing compared to the sort we have in our native Australia. In the tough land downunder, you think you’re doing it easily on the flat, then suddenly the road surface gets rough. “That’s not a cobblestone – this is a cobblestone!”
STOP PRESS: Oh no, Lance, you got a flat tyre on the cobblestones!!!! I warned you that you’d need a city bike like mine with ‘anti-lek’ (anti-leak) tyres, but did you listen??? No, you tried to do it on those silly skinny wheels and lost valuable seconds. Next time I give you advice, take it – local knowledge matters!

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TOUR DE FRANCE – my view from the street

Rotterdam was very excited about seeing you today, Lance.

Hi Lance,

I hope you too enjoyed the fourth of July, because we had a cracker of a day in Rotterdam.

We turned out in our hundreds of thousands, just hoping to glimpse you for a second. I know you were probably looking out for me, but if you did spot me across a crowded street, forgive me if I didn’t return your cheery wave. It was bedlam out there.

There was plenty of pre-match entertainment to keep us amused. You probably never see that, because you’re always in the team bus doing stretching exercises, getting massages and avoiding questions from the media, but if you sneak out in disguise one morning and have a wander around, I think you’ll enjoy what’s going on.

The cavalcade of advertisers’ vehicles began at 10am. There were lots of enthusiastic young ladies throwing things into the crowd. I think they’ll be more tired and grumpy by the time they get to the Alps, and the free merchandise may have run out by then, but we enjoyed it today.

Anyone who works for a sponsor can get their fifteen seconds of fame.

I got a lovely headband from a hotel chain, and a packet of three squashed madeleine cakes from a baker called St Michel. Small but delicious! The lady next to me caught a big green rubber hand with the name of a bank on it. She loved it too, and waved it at every opportunity.

In the People’s Park by the harbourfront, I had the chance to buy an official Tour de France package of ten items – cap, t-shirt, playing cards…excellent value at 20 euros the lot. However, the Rotterdam council was handing out free tour caps, so instead I joined the Dutch cheapskates queuing up for them.

There was then a slight lull in proceedings for an hour and a half while we waited for the race proper to start. I strolled the streets of Rotterdam, and imagine my joy to discover a Walk of Fame near the Maritime Museum. Your handprint wasn’t there on the pavement yet, Lance, but your time will come, I’m sure. Some of my favourite celebrities were there already, including Johan Cruyff (a footballer), Shirley Bassey (a singer) and Tina Turner (another singer). And also this one who I’m sure needs no further explanation…

You can feel the magic, you can hear the music!

Then the helicopters appeared overhead and we knew it was time to start jostling for vantage points by the rails. I managed to get a spot on a bridge as you passed underneath.

Thanks to my correspondent Bram for identifying the riders. He has good eyes, a hi-res monitor and too much time on his hands!

Then I rushed across the road to see you pass again when the peloton looped back and reappeared.

The mayor of Rotterdam thought we were cheering for him. We do quite like him, actually, the first Dutch mayor of Moroccan ancestry.

The course was rather narrow, so I got up really close to the riders this time…

I think Number 150-something said, 'G'day' to me. Maybe it was 'Get outta the way.'

Five seconds later it was all over. Your spare bikes got a round of applause as they were driven past on the roof of a support vehicle, but the fire had gone out of the Rotterdammers’ bellies by then. Their tour was over. I walked sadly back to the station, to take the train back to Amsterdam, where a TV set was waiting.

Then a hoarding by the station caught my eye. It was a quote from you, Lance, and a very good one too. I’m taking it to heart, and I hope you do too. Cheers, Richard.

STOP PRESS: Alessandro Petacchi wins sprint finish in Brussels. No change in general classification – Cancellara in the yellow jersey, Armstrong still fourth. Cavendish is held up by a fall and can’t contest the sprint.

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TOUR DE FRANCE – the dangerous Rotterdam-Brussels stage

Bike, windmill, camera - a fatal combination

G’day again, Lance.

You did well in the prologue time trial yesterday. An impressive 4th place on a drying track. Still 3633km to go, and quite a lot of them (223.5) are coming up today, so you’ll need my advice. I hope you can get email in the hotel, and if they have wifi, bring the laptop to the breakfast table, because I have a few things you need to know about…

Today Le Tour heads out of Rotterdam, down through Zeeland, then into Belgium and stops at Brussels. I’ve been to all those places already, so I won’t be coming with you today, but I think you’ll have fun.

Incidentally, you may have heard by now that Holland and Belgium are no longer part of France. Perhaps they were when the route for this stage was set out – I don’t know how long in advance the tour organisers plan these things. But it all changed after the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Perhaps the contracts were signed and they couldn’t get out of it. Anyway, it’s all set in stone now, and yours not to reason why…

There is a trap for young players in the Dutch countryside. You’ll find there is an almost irresistible temptation to stop at every windmill and take a photo (see sample above). There are lots of them down in Zeeland, where wind is a major import/export, but if you try to capture them all you won’t be in fourth place by the end of the day. Windmill photography is a complete waste of time, and I speak from experience, Lance.

Down in Belgium you’ll be passing through Antwerp. There’s an interesting street of Art Nouveau architecture near Antwerpen-Berchem Station. It’s a bit off the designated stage route, so I don’t suggest you go there yourself. However if you see Contador at the start line, whisper to him that I highly recommended it and he may lose a bit of time going looking for it. I know how Alberto loves his Art Nouveau and it’s quite hard to find without a Tom-Tom (a Dutch GPS device).

The hand thrower, Antwerp


Next little obstacle: In the main city square of Antwerp there’s this fountain/statue of a man throwing a severed hand. The name Antwerp comes from the Dutch for hand throwing – ‘Hand werpen’. The story goes that this chap used to demand a toll from passers-by, and cut off the hand of anyone who didn’t have exact change. It sounds crazy, I know, but Belgian authorities were very strict in those days. Belgium hasn’t had a government or any authorities for quite some time, so there’s probably nothing to worry about, but I suggest you put a few euros in your back pockets all the same. The shopping in Antwerp is supposed to be good.

Next it’s on to Mechelen. Nice town, another pretty square.

Mechelen town square

Mevrouw T and I were there a little while ago. Your bike is probably lighter than ours, Lance, but our city bikes were ideal for the Mechelen cobblestones. Maybe you should consider borrowing a city bike for that section. Mevrouw T is a bit fussy about who uses her bike, but I’d be happy to lend you mine if your mechanic guys could give the chain a bit of oil after the race. Third gear slips a bit too – perhaps they could take a look at that. Leave a comment on this blog if you’d like to take up the offer.

Some people find Brussels a bit boring, but they have good beer and chocolate, and the EU headquarters. The end of the race may not be too interesting either. It’s a dead flat stage, so…desultory breakaway, peleton catches them with 5km to go, mass sprint, Cavendish wins, all the usual stuff.

I don’t know why they make these sprint stages so long. They could have just said, ‘First to the end of Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge – go!’ then put you all on the train to Brussels. You can take bikes on Dutch and Belgian trains – 6 euros for a day pass. Maybe you could suggest it to the organisers; they’re more likely to listen to you than to me.

I hope all this helps, Lance. I’m planning to be down at the kerbside in Rotterdam, so give us a wave when you pass. If you can’t take a hand off the handlebars, just a nod and a wink will do. I’ll know who you are.

Cheers, Richard

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TOUR DE FRANCE – la Rotterdamme prologue

Jan Janssen and Joop Zoetemelk on the Erasmus Bridge

Dear Lance Armstrong,

Le Tour starts today, and I believe you can still do it. You’re never too old. And today’s course isn’t too tough – these old blokes did it on Thursday, without any of those wussy aerodynamic helmets you’ll be using. Nederlanders don’t very often win the tour. Jan Janssen (1968) and Joop Zoetemelk (1980) are the only ones who have ever done it. In 1985 Zoetemelk was world champion at the age of 38.

I’m older than you too, Lance, and I’m still riding. Yesterday I rode more than four times as far as the piddling 8.9km you’ll ride this afternoon. My time incidentally was 3hrs 37min 8.4seconds, not including coffee breaks. I did the last 5km in a hurry, even standing up on the pedals once or twice, because I needed to get to a television set before 4pm to see a football match.

I don’t know how interested you are in football, Lance, but you may have noticed that many Dutch people like the game. If you went to bed early last night, I hope you had a soundproofed room at the back of the hotel. If you had a view of a Rotterdam street, you would have heard some young Dutch people blowing orange horns.

Those instruments are called ‘vuvuzelas’ in the Dutch language. Most people in the world are already aware of them, but I know how single-minded you are about preparing for le Tour, so you may have missed them. Vuvuzelas were particularly popular yesterday, because Nederland beat Brazil and got into the semi-finals of the World Cup (a football competition currently being held in South Africa). The score was Nederland 2, Brazil 1.

The Rotterdam street cleaners would have been following the game too, so the Tour route may not be as clean as was originally intended. Sorry about that. While you’re riding today, watch out for stray orange balloons bobbling around the course.

Bonne chance,

Richard

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