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Posted by MDugard on Jul 23, 2005 10:19:05 PM

Just went out for a long walk around town. Took in large chunks of the course and found St. Etienne's old town. Cheered for Chris Horner as he pedaled past. Thought about hanging out with a large crowd in front of a café a mile up the road, but I was out of Euros and it wasn't a credit card place. Good thing. The sky has cleared. It's a perfect sunny day, ideal for leaning back in a plastic chair with a tall 1664 and soaking up some rays. But it was all a little too appealing. Know what I mean? Better to hold off until Paris. The day is still quite young.The start house is pretty cool. It's the same sort of inflatable clamshell design as the podium amphitheater. A rider enters via a long ramp and rolls his bike to a small yellow starting line. An official holds the seat in place when the rider clips into his pedals. At seven seconds before the start time, the rider hears a loud electronic beep. Then the last five seconds are counted down by the beeps, and manually by an official.Checked back on the Disco Bus. Lance and George were warming up, side by side. The crowd around the bus isn't quite a mob, but it's a pushy-shovey bunch. Grown men are standing on their tiptoes to get a peek at Lance (Me too. Seen the guy a hundred times, but it's still cool to watch him settle in and get to work). College girls and children sat on shoulders. Lots of yellow bracelets. Lots of people waving at Lance, hoping to get a wave back. Now and again he'd oblige, but mostly it was all business.John Kerry is here today. Nice guy. About as tall as he looks on TV. Walked around the busses, visited over at Disco, headed into the village with a water bottle in his hand. Crowds and amazement followed his every action, but what surprised me was that the Europeans and Americans were equally star struck. Even a group of French teenagers knew who he was. I was impressed. I like to think that I'm up on my world politics, but if a major French politician walked past me in the States I doubt I would recognize him.Lance's kids are here, too. They played in the Disco team area this morning, and were still running around as he was warming up.Finally, the guy wearing the longhorn helmet is here today… He actually has two helmets, one with shorter horns for bike riding, and a longer set of horns for running up and down the road during a stage. Whatever. I was just scared he was going to hook someone with those things as he set himself up on the edge of the Disco scrum.Not to get too far ahead of myself, but I was reading up on Paris. The Place de la Concorde, where the race finishes (the grandstands were already in place a few weeks ago), was once marshy, hostile terrain. Architect Jacques-Ange Gabriel was hired to transform the area in 1748. He did, designing one of the most beautiful public squares in the world. Originally known as Place Louis XV, it was rechristened Place de la Revolution in 1792. More than 1300 persons had their head lopped off by the guillotine in the Place during the first six months of 1793, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The name was changed again in 1836, as a means of effecting greater national unity. It has been the Place de la Concorde ever since. The obelisk rising in its center was from the temple at Luxor. I always thought the French stole it during Napoleon's occupation of Egypt, but it was actually a gift from the Egyptian viceroy in 1829.Anyway, Lance goes off at 4:22 today. That's 27 minutes away, local time. If he's on his game, he'll be done just a little after 5:30. Talk to you then.

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