What does one do on a rest day? Sleep, for one. Then eat, run, and write. Sometime this afternoon Floyd is holding a press conference at his hotel, and I'll be there (it's the Kyriad Hotel in Gap, if you're in the neighborhood). In the meantime, life doesn't get more elemental. Austin and I got rooms in Les Orres, a ski town forty miles outside Gap. Driving up the mountain in the dark, we weren't sure what we were getting ourselves into, because the road wound through miles and miles of utter darkness before emerging into the lights of this small town (there's a metaphor for life in there somewhere). As if entering some Dante-esque absurdity, the first two cars I saw in the parking lot had ten-foot-high red devils on top. Then there was the car with the pizza, and the coffee pots, and the giant pretzels. We had found the Tour's publicity caravan. Like carny geeks, the caravan employees cluttered the hotel's downstairs bar, glad to be rid of their absurd little vehicles for a whole day. From the look of things as I was checking in, I can tell you that those caravan folks party very, very hard when the day is done. I guess driving around France with a giant red devil looking over your shoulder will do that to you. I needed a long trail run in the worst way. Those riverfront runs that have become a staple of the Tour are all well and good, but at some point I need to lose myself in a dense woods. This hotel, L'Ancolie, sits directly at the bottom of the mountain. In the winter I would be able to ski from the lobby to the lifts. Likewise, finding a solitary trail was as simple as taking the elevator down and stepping outside. I ran up and up and up, slow and steady, traversing back and forth across the slope on service roads and singletrack, past herds of bell-wearing dairy cows (we exchanged moo's. It was all very Dr. Phil, and I felt like I bonded in particular with a small brown cow that couldn't decide whether to charge me or let me pass. She kept chewing on a mouthful of grass as I trotted by, but never took a wary eye off of me). It is sobering, and somewhat splendid, to run up a mountainside until the legs scream that they cannot go any higher, feeling very full of myself, and then look even higher up the mountain and see an eighty-year old man walking down from the summit. He was my reminder to push harder and dig a little deeper (that Kate Miner song "Take Me Higher" began a continuous loop in my head). The old man wished me well as we passed. "Bon journee," I replied, hoping his hike down was a safe one. So that's how the mind works. You push to a point where stopping feels like the only option, and then when something urges you to push past it, something inside is set free. I began composing this missive as I ran, thinking of what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, writing entire sentences in my head, and then editing them, knowing all the while that I would forget the actual words when the run was done, and remember only the broad topics. Take, for instance, books. I was thinking about my Tour book, CHASING LANCE, which is a book very much like these columns, about following the Tour and being in France. It is not a book about Lance per se, I must point out rather honestly, but a book about Austin and I and the Sideways-style jaunt we have taken these many years through the Gallic world. Lance, as you'll see when you get a chance to read it, is someone we spend time with and whose race we dissect, but in the end, Lance is a metaphor for the greatness that lives within us all, and which we struggle on a daily basis to bring forth in our own lives. Man, it felt good to get that explanation out there. Not everyone needs to be filled in on the subtleties of a book. But apparently, after reading some of the knucklehead reviews on Amazon from those two or three people who will only read a Tour book if it's a Lance hagiography, some sort of Cliff's Notes was in order. I could tell you what he eats for breakfast, explain the sort of gearing in which he rides the mountains, and offer a few behind-the-scenes takes on Lance and Sheryl at the Tour, but that's all been done. So buy my book and let me know what you think. That's my naked, shameless plug on this rest day. It's on Amazon and it's out there in the stores. And when you're finished, write and tell me how you liked it. The email link on this site is always good, and I enjoy the feedback, for better and worse.On the topic of books, I'm asked a lot about my take on the Coyle book. I have to say that I intentionally avoided reading it until after my book was finished, because I didn't want any cross-pollination. I finally read it cover to cover during a trip to Italy in May, and enjoyed it very much. The reporting was excellent and I admired the commitment of moving his entire family to Spain in order to immerse himself in Lance's world. As a writer, my only quibble would be those random moments when he loses his own voice, which is most appealing, and slips into Outside magazine's trademark (and distracting) smarty-pants, we-know-more-than-you voice that makes every one of their stories sound the same and makes the magazine virtually unreadable. On the whole, that's a minor criticism, involving just a few chapters. It's a good book. Onward. As much as I like Les Orres, I'm already feeling like it's a mistake to linger here. Tomorrow is the L'Alpe D'Huez. As I write, I am sitting on my hotel balcony looking far across a broad valley at hulking gray Alpine peaks. Toward its right shoulder is an invisible line delineating the Italian border. But straight over the top as the eagle flies, and then down the other side, lies the base of L'Alpe d'Huez, where thousands upon thousands of fans are already setting up tents and campers and riding their bikes up the famous switchback. Austin and I have lodging at the top of the mountain, but to get there we need to push the Volvo through that sea of humanity. It's a traffic jam of epic proportions now, but it's only going to be worse tomorrow. Something inside of me thinks it's very important to be there as soon as possible. As I wrote yesterday, the next three stages of this Tour are crucial. Tomorrow will be the first of those challenges, and one of the top riders is going to tumble down hard in the rankings. Floyd Landis could be in trouble because his team is weak, and the same goes for Cadel Evans. Watch for Denis Menchov's Rabobank teams to send Mickael Rasmussen and Michael Boogerd on exploratory breakaways designed to probe for weakness in Floyd Landis and other top riders the way that advance military patrols probe enemy lines for a soft spot in which to attack. If you only watch one stage of this year's Tour, watch that L'Alpe D'Huez climb tomorrow. I've ridden that road before, and it's impossibly steep. Someone's just going to off on that thing tomorrow, and someone's going to implode. Meanwhile, the crowds along the road will be spitting on the riders, pressing right up next to them, throwing beer on them, waving flags in their faces -- the European version of Raider Nation, right down to the face paint. Which reminds me, I still haven't run alongside one of the riders yet. Stay tuned. I need to do this, even if it makes me look like an utter moron. If Floyd says anything interesting in the press conference I'll pass it along. Otherwise, I'll talk to you tomorrow.