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Hincapie and Everything After

Posted by MDugard on Jul 13, 2006 6:55:18 PM

So now we move east for a week... George Hincapie's first day in yellow promises to be a challenge. The heat is intense, the peloton is in a frisky mood, and all Thor Hushovd has to do to get it back is win a time bonus. There's a real funny vibe about this year's Tour. It doesn't feel like a real Tour yet. Sure, Hincapie's in yellow, Landis and Leipheimer and others are yapping about winning the whole thing, and the fans are turning out in force, but there's no sense of cohesion. This fragmentation will likely last the whole first week, when that time trial sorts things out. Frankly, it's frustrating. Sure it's a week of hope for the unknowns, but I don't see a whole lot of drama right now. I know it's heretical to say that the Tour is dull, but this Tour is, if not dull, unsatisfying. Like talking to someone with ADD. Need some cohesion. Then again, the Tour used to be like this all the time until Armstrong took over. So perhaps this is just a return to normal. Ran for an easy hour around Strasbourg this morning. I stuck close to the river, where it was cool and there were no cars. I've never seen a lock before today. Makes me sound like I just fell off the turnip truck. They're something of an engineering marvel, aren't they? The travel adventure began an hour later, right after checking out of the hotel. I went off in search of the Gare Centrale, Strasbourg's mammoth train station. I needed to catch a train to the airport so I could pick up my rental car. I looked kind of like a dork, wheeling my big duffle through the crowd of commuters racing off to their morning train. I got utterly lost, almost got on the wrong train, found my bearings and made it happen. A very pleasant train ride later (Strasbourg's trains look just like the Disneyland monorail), I was driving away from the airport in a jet black Volvo station wagon. Travel problems -- and travel problem solving -- are a daily aspect of life at the Tour. People have been emailing me, asking for Tour travel tips. I've got a few good ones, but the most important is to be flexible and have a good attitude. You will get lost. You will get frustrated. You will be honked at by an angry Frenchman when you inadvertently run a red light (or, as one TV crew did yesterday, nearly run him over). But there's a feeling of accomplishment, for lack of a better word, that comes with figuring things out (especially in a place where you don't speak the language) that actually makes the experience rewarding. The pre-race village was about a mile from the start, so the action was very mellow. Very few fans hung around to get autographs or hang out around the team busses. Most of them were fighting for a spot near the starting barricades, which were jammed. The riders stayed in their busses until the last possible minute, not wanting to come out into the blazing heat (the race started at 11:40 local time). I took advantage of their reluctance to enjoy the local cuisine that chefs were preparing in the village: Aiguillettes de Poulet au Miel de Sapin, with sorbets. Not sure what it means, but it was marinated chicken stir-fried and served over potatoes, with sorbet on the side. Very good. I'm still looking for the camambert, but there was none. Had to content myself with a chunk of dark bread and some very stinky local cheese that had been baking in the sun too long. I instantly regretted eating it. Before the start, some riders were expressing their hope that CSC and T-Mobile continue sponsoring those teams. There's talk that they may pull out of cycling entirely, just like Liberty Mutual (Liberty Seguros). Levi Leipheimer predicts that today will belong to breakouts. Says he doesn't believe the sprinters will be able to dominate the way they would like, thanks to the climbing sections. There's a little tension between some of the American riders and OLN. Not sure what that's about. I do, however, think it odd that OLN is an official sponsor of the Discovery Team. Seems like a pretty blatant conflict. Having said that, Discovery isn't giving OLN any preferential press treatment that I've seen so far. Maybe it's coming across different on TV back home. Speaking of TV, time to leave the press room and the flat screens and walk over to the finish and watch these guys wrap it up. Talk to you soon.

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