In the town where each stage begins there is the Ville de Depart or start village. Race sponsors set up booths and offer a whole wealth of products and services to VIP's, invited guests of the town, and begrudgingly, journalists. I took a tour of the start village in Embrun, where, for the first time in recent history, there will be two stage starts, one to Prato Nevoso, the other to l'Alpe d'Huez. Below are some of the more interesting happenings.
Race direct Christian Prudhomme is always there to meet and greet with the head honchos of the local organizing committee. Later on, I spotted him giving an interview to French radio; obviously, he feels pretty strongly about something.
Richard Virenque won the polka dot climbing jersey a record seven times. Evan after admitting to using drugs, he remains a favorite of the French fans. Now retired, he works for the French edition of Eurosport TV as a commentator and because of his climbing wins also does some PR for Champion supermarkets which sponsor the polka-dot jersey. Here his doing and autograph signing, but he appeared to be just going through the motions which is too bad for one of the more charismatic riders in French cycling.
You, too, can win a stage of the Tour. Here is active.com's own Rob Klingensmith celebrates a well-deserved win. The overall race leader was not even in sight.
Hey, if you just can't do anything with your hair or you want to try something new, you can visit the stylists right there in the village.
Ever wonder where Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd got those sprinter legs? Here are his parents, all the way from Norway, to watch him race.
Yesterday, I talked about the scrum around Mark Cavendish as he announced that he was withdrawing from the race. Well, here is a photo of the scrum. Sometimes being a journalist is a bit dicey.
If Team CSC Saxo Bank want to take frank Schleck and the yellow jersey all the way to Paris, they are going to need much more than 8 seconds on Cadel Evans as the final time trial(TT) is 50km and Frank could easily lose 2 minutes to Cadel, or even Christian Vandevelde for that matter. Look for CSC Saxo Bank to have a few more tricks up their sleeves similar to the ones they played yesterday when they set up Frank beautifully. I don't know if it will come on the first climb,the Col de la Lombarde, maybe on the run-up to the Col de la Bonnette as the road from Isola to St. Etienne de Tinne has some ups and downs and a team could push the pace there.
How about Danny Pate almost winning the stage yesterday? By my tally that makes four close calls (Frischkorn on stage 3, Millar in the TT, Vandevelde on Super-Besse, Pate on Prato Nevoso) for the Garmin-Chipotle team. I think they have clearly proven that they deserve to be at this race. No doubt in my mind.
Christian Vandevelde looked good on the stage finish yesterday. That was a very tricky finish both physically and tactically. He held it together and did what he had to do to preserve his shot at the podium.
With six riders within 48 seconds and two mountain stages remaining, look for a lot of attacks. The better time trialists like Evans, Vandevelde and Menchov can wait for the last climb to make their move, but the others are going to have to find a way to take sizeable chunks of time.
Even though the stage to Jausiers finishes with a descent of the massive Col de la Bonnette, I still consider it a mountain top finish because, even though it is a 5500' descent, it goes right from the top to the bottom with no flat riding. All the top guys are good enough descenders to keep any time gaps they gain on the way up.