The RoadBook

Maps, routes, time tables, sponsor info, and all the other behind the scenes info about chasing bike races with a camera.

Stage 18 - Sallanches to Mègeve (ITT)

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After yesterday’s dumb maneuvers dragging myself up the climb to Emosson, I took things a bit easier today. Which the first smart thing I’ve done in a while, because today was hot. Not like HOT hot, but at ~30°C (that’s 86°+ F) all day, it was definitely hot enough to slow cook your brain sous vide style. How the riders managed to warm up is beyond me, even with copious use of fans, ice, and cooling vests.

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After wandering the team paddocks long enough, it was a brief stop at the start house to catch fans, final pep talks, and final moments before riders began ~30 minutes of hurt.


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Then, off to the course - to the Côte de Domancy, specifically. The climb came early in the TT course, but Côte would nonetheless immediately separate wheat from chaff – only 2.5k long, but a leg searing 9.4% average grade, and that’s BEFORE the course climbs an additional 400m. Ouch.


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And at last, the finish for the GC leader group


So many pain faces. So many varieties:  

 

Stage 13: Bourg-Saint-Andéol to La Caverne du Pont d’Arc (ITT)

 

Time trials are the most underappreciated aspect of pro bicycle racing. Full stop.

Now, before you go firing off snarky tweets about what could possibly be more underappreciated in cycling, think to yourself: when is the last time you were seriously excited for a TT stage? Like, really excited? Excited enough to wake up early/stay up late (depending on your region of the world)/otherwise prioritize your day around following the stage’s events? Excited like you’d be for a mountain queen stage, or the finish on the Champs-Élysées? I rest my case. I get it, though. Airing a time trial on TV, announcing it, and making it seem truly thrilling (or at the very least, interesting enough to keep viewers from changing the channel) is hard – at least the way that time trials are currently broadcast.

However you might feel about time trials, as a fan of the sport you should remember: a time trial stage is almost everything in cycling, all at once, all day. All stage, somewhere, a rider is warming up, a mechanic is mechanic-ing, a rider is breathing final deep breaths before setting off, a rider is pushing tempo just to complete the stage, and somewhere on course, a rider is dying the proverbial 1000 deaths trying to actually beat the clock. All day, from the first across the line to the last, one rider is winning and another rider is losing.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate the time trial.

For Nice.  

 

Stage 11 - Carcassonne to Montpellier

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…

“Yeah, ok, so, you do you, I’ll do me, and at like 10k to go we’ll go HAM?” “Oh, word, can G come too? “ “Ok, but only if I get to bring Bodnar, too, I don’t want to be… how you say, three wheel?” “Yeah, Bodnar’s cool! … is what they  probably  said.

“Yeah, ok, so, you do you, I’ll do me, and at like 10k to go we’ll go HAM?” “Oh, word, can G come too? “ “Ok, but only if I get to bring Bodnar, too, I don’t want to be… how you say, three wheel?” “Yeah, Bodnar’s cool! … is what they probably said.

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:

  1. 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?!
  2. 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.

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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. 😅 

Oh yeah! You'd made it this far. Liking what you see so far? Want some swag from the tour, and some fancy pictures mailed to you? Donate a little, and if it's at least enough for me to cover postage back to you, I drop a gift from the Tour in the mail!

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Tour de France: Two Weeks Notice

Last year, I was fortunate enough to follow the Tour for its first week, as it ran from Utrecht, down through Belgium, and across the northern coast of France. I watched riders roll from the TT start house at less than an arms reach. I stood on the roadside as the peloton thundered across cobblestones, and tasted the dust left in their wake. I was in the media scrum after Cav took his much delayed (and only) Tour stage win of 2015. I shot from the finish lines as riders crested the Murs de Huy, and Bretagne. It. Was. LIT. Not in the literal Giro d'Italia after party sense, but it was pretty great, alright?

Since leaving the Tour last year, I have been plotting out a return, to cover the full Tour this year. And I am sad to say, I don't think that will happen.

However, I am beyond stoked that I WILL be at the Tour for the last two weeks. First week last year, last two this year. It's basically a full Tour. I'll count it. For 10 stages and 2 rest days, I'll be posting daily stage image galleries, re-caps, and interviews. Occasionally, with speculation, opinion, and unabashed fandom, too.

I'll also be trying out a little experiment through the end of the Tour: At the bottom of the page, there'll be a donate button. That's not really the experiment, though. At it's heart, it works like any other donate button - if you enjoy the content here over the next few months and want to help support it, it's there for you.

The experiment part: "Public-Broadcasting Roulette." I want you to get something in return for donating - more than just a sense of satisfaction and more than the same content that everyone else gets. In public broadcasting fashion, if you donate enough for me to send something back to you, you'll get a thank you gift exclusive to donors. It could be anything: prints, promo-items from the tour, zine, photo book, etc. Gifts aren't explicitly set, nor are donation tiers tied to anything specific, but if you donate you will get something in return commensurate to your donation amount. And it'll be awesome! In true NPR and PBS form, you might even get a tote-bag: options are being explored to include a custom musette bag.

Click the donate button for more details!

 

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