Le Tour de France is in the Tarn today–on its way to the Alps.
We are lucky–geographically speaking–our Department (Tarn) being betwixt and between the two great climbing arenas (Pyrenees and Alps) of this extraordinary three week marathon.
Most years it passes through the department–two years in a row through Lautrec, five minutes from chez nous!
Tough day for us today–it’s a twenty minutes drive along a windy country road to see the carnival pass by.
A twenty minute trip to witness what the French regard as the third greatest sporting event in the world (after the World Cup and the Olympics)!
The riders have spent the last three days toiling up impossible gradients in the Pyrenees.
“Up to the top of the hill and down again” and again and again–mountain after mountain.
The tactical intricacies largely remain a mystery but I understand that this is a team event and that without the support of a committed set of cohorts the star rider could not win.
Going up the mountain, “the team” sets a pace to pulverize the opposition, trying to ensure that when the star rider decides to attack, his rival stars won’t have have the legs to follow.
Yesterday on the stiffest climb, this happened leg-numbingly often.
Attack!—pull back; attack!—pull back, attack!—pull back.
Nobody made a decisive break and the yellow jersey (maillot jaune, worn by the rider with the least amount of time overall), stayed on the shoulders of the Brit, Chris Frome.
He made an unexpected break on the first day in the Pyrenees–shooting up the mountain with six and half kilometers (over three miles) to go–nobody could stay with him and he stretched his overall lead to two minutes.
“Vous devez être content, Monsieur,” said the local man selling me tomatoes in the market the following morning.
For a moment I didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Comment, Monsieur?–(happy about what?)
“Ah–oui, bien sur. C’est définitif?” (He’s cracked it?)
“Il est propre (clean)?”
“On ne sait jamais, mais, oui, je crois”.
I think so too.
Chris Frome has never had the cloud of doubt about drug use that hung over and finally swallowed Lance Armstrong.
I reckied the vantage point yesterday and we planned to get there in good time to find the best spot.
A right angle turn would mean the riders slowing down, giving us a chance to spot the leading contenders–perfect!
Well, dear Reader, we never made it to our vantage point.
When the commentator announced it was 40C (104F) outside, we decided to stay on the sofa!