New day, new start village, and new problems. But we’ll get to those later…
After the obligatory breakfast of Tour snacks and sub-par coffee, I had a wander through the Village Départ before the teams arrived. As I encountered last year, stage starts can get a little…monotonous. There’s fans, there’s team bikes/cars/busses/gear, riders sign in, someone is wearing a jersey. Each day is different, in the ‘variations on a theme’ sense. Still nice, though:
Not 10 minutes before this picture was taken, Peter Sagan was interviewed and asked “what’s the plan for today?” His response? “Plan? There is no plan.” This looks like some straight up planning to me…
Out on the course, I made a quick stop just past Kilometer 0 in hopes of catching the breakaway forming. Alas, no breakaway yet, but the pack was moving, helped along by a bit of a tailwind, and Team Sky's motoring on the front to keep Froome safe.
With no breakaway shots, it was on to the next photo stop: the Category 4 Côte de Villespassans. Along the way, some things transpired:
- Received message from AirBnB host: hey, you need to pick up your keys before 5pm, we won’t be around after then. THE STAGE IS SCHEDULED TO FINISH AT 5:20 ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
- Jeep things. The Jeep story is slightly too long for right here, but it was harrowing indeed. See below for bonus Jeep story! Spoiler alert: almost wrecked from a stand still. Yes, that’s correct. Managed not to!
At the Côte, business as usual. Vichot and Howard off the front, cruising steadily, and the peloton barely riding tempo – casual enough to ride ~10-wide across the road.
With no time to spare, it was back into the Jeep with a course plotted for the finish, with a begrudging detour to collect my keys from the ChateuBnB. I got the keys while navigating a horribly laid out apartment complex, and headed back toward the course. Upon arrival at the course entry point, I was met with a headshake from the ASO staffer manning the point. “The race is 7 minutes away, you can’t enter now. Désolé – I’m sorry.” Despite my pleading with the marshal, I was stuck another day without a proper finish line shot. Might as well make the best of it, though.
At 6k to go, there was a fun little S-curve through some roundabout road furniture, which I thought would still be decent to see sprint trains barrel through.
A twist! Froome and Sagan executed their ‘plan’ perfectly with the assistance of Bodnar and Thomas – a rare sight to see both yellow and green jerseys off the front in the closing k’s of the race, and rarer for the peloton to let a move like that escape.
Wasn’t all bad today, though: I scored a badge to drive on the TT course in two days, and tomorrow is the stage to Ventoux. On Bastille day. It’s going to be bananas. Whether I shoot from the finish, or along the climb, I think I’ve worked out most of the kinks; I’ll be shooting on my terms, and I don’t care how many Jeeps I have to flip to do so!
Bonus Jeep Story: Upon arriving at the Côte de Villespassans, I pulled my car off the road and down onto the embankment. My rental car, mind you, is a Jeep Renegade. It’s huge and totally inappropriate for most European driving, but it's all the rental spot had. It has allowed me to be slightly more cavalier with what I choose to roll over, which had until this point been a nice perk. It’s also top heavy compared to your standard motorcar. I think you can see where this might be going…
I very quickly realized the embankment in question was too steep for this Jeep. From a stop, I gingerly tried to coax the jeep back to the road, which onlookers casually notified me that my two left wheels were starting to lift from the ground. Uh oh. By some mix of steely nerves, white knuckles, and frankly, no other options, I was able to safely monster-truck my way down the embankment into the field just below, and circle back onto the road from a shallower spot. Happy to say I've done that, I guess, but I'd be even happier to not have to do that again. 😅
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