I talked with Jonathan Vaughters about Christian Vandevelde's gritty ride up Huatacam. As those of you who have ridden the climb know it is a stair-stepped ascent rather than a constant grade and requires a punchy style of riding to race it to full potential. So, when Vandevelde went with Bernhard Kohl's attack which would have netted him the yellow jersey, Christian decided since he is more of a steady tempo rider to let Kohl go and not try to punch it up the climb to gain time. That shows a lot of maturity from Vandevelde. The Tour is a three week race and there are times when you have to ride tour own style on the climbs rather than blow up and lose big minutes trying to do something you can't.
It turns out that while that statistically, Huatacam look very similar to l'Alpe d'Huez on paper. Both climbs are 8 miles (13km) long and climb 3700'(1100m). Not surprisingly, the record up l'ALpe is 36 minutes and on Monday, Leonardo Piepoli's time up Huatacam was 37'11".
I chatted a bit with Garmin-Chipotle rider Canadian Ryder Hesjedal on the differnces between the Giro and the Tour. He remarked that this year's Giro was very difficult because of all the logistical transfers which had riders getting to their hotels very late a night and then up early the next morning. When asked about how the racing compares he replied that they speed of the racing is very similar noting that in the Giro it seemed like everyday some Italian riders went up the road and here at the Tour is seems like everyday some French riders are heading up the road.
All the members of the Garmin-Chipotle team I talked to agreed that now that Christian Vandevelde's excellent riding has put him in third overall the team has a pretty clear mission to take care of their team leader for the remainder of the race. The extra motivation that this new mission provides should help the riders raise their game a bit and help them focus on getting through what is the first ever Tour de France for six of the nine riders.
Without a doubt, the best food I have had in France was at the Team Garmin-Chipotle burrito rest day party. The squad had the chefs at the Hotel Parc Beaumont (great digs if you ever need a place to stay in Pau) prepare a real-life American grilled chicken burrito complete with guacamole. The best thing about the burrito is that, save for the tortilla, all the ingredients were grown in France. All he riders partook in the feast as did a whole scrum of always-hungry journalists who were also treated to margaritas before the feats.
Thanks to Garmin-Chipotle riders Will Frischkorn and Trent Lowe for providing the hands in the burrito photo.
The founder of Chipotle restaurants, Steve Ells, was present at the party and hinted that he is looking to expand his very successful line of eateries to Europe. Steve is also an avid cyclist who is looking forward to riding l'Alpe d'Huez later in the race.
Tour organises released a lis of all the prize money won by the teams by the first rest day. Team Scott-Saunier Duval with three stage wins leads the pack with 50,000 euro. Team Columbia with two stage wins and some days with high stage placings and jerseys is second also with 50,000 euro. In last, with only 1,000 euro so far is the Italian Lampre team which has seen its hopes for the overall win, Damiano Cunego, struggle.
One of the hottest items at the Tour are T-Shirts emblazoned with the slogan "What would Jens do?" Clearly the German is a huge favorite with fans of all nationalitities who love his attacking style and happy-go-lucky off-the-bike personality.