Stage 21: Paris
Finally! Everyone must have been tired. The race was about 45 minutes later than expected. Usually there’s a break that’s exciting but today there was just a small one with Vogondy and Barredo. They were swallowed by the peloton and the stage ended in a sprint with Belgian Steegmans winning.
Carlos Sastre won the race. He had his kids on the podium and I think his son stole the show, making lots of faces and cheering.
Tomorrow it’s up at 5 am for the long flight home.
Stage 20: Cerilly – St Amand Montrond TT
Christian Vandevelde rode like crazy today and made up a minute and a half but he’s still behind by 3’12”. Cadel Evans also rode like crazy and made it up to second place. Stefan Schumacher from Gerolsteiner won the stage and Carlos Sastre retained the yellow jersey. The Paris podium will be Sastre, Evans and Kohl.
Stage 19: Roanne- Montlucon
I stopped in a small town, Chatel Montagne, to shoot. At that point, there was a break with Schumacher, Fedrigo, Martinez and Ballan. The peloton came by quickly behind.
It then took 2-1/2 hours to get to the finish and I’m surprised I made it. Sylvain Chavanel finally won a stage today in Montlucon.
Tomorrow is the last time trial and then a long drive to Paris for the finish on Sunday.
Stage 18: Bourg d’Oisans – St Etienne
Today was a tough day to shoot the race in a car. The route from Bourg d’Oisans was a two lane road with no room to pass. I’m exhausted so I just drove to the finish.
The peloton mostly stayed together except for a break with Astarloza, Burghardt and Barredo. Burghardt and Borredo duked it out the last kilometer with Burghardt winning the stage.
Tomorrow is another sprinters’ day and then the time trial on Saturday which will probably determine the race.
Stage 17: Alpe d’Huez
Alpe d’Huez is always exciting. I drove up last night, through hordes of drunk partying fans. It’s great not to have to spend 5 or more hours in traffic trying to get down the mountain after this stage.
Everything changed again in the race today. Carlos Sastre from CSC attacked on Alpe d’Huez and managed to stay away the whole mountain, win the stage and the yellow jersey. He’s enough ahead of his nearest rivals that if he has a good time trial on Saturday will win the Tour. Frank Schleck is 1’24” behind, Bernard Kohl 1’33” and Cadel Evans 1’34”. It will be exciting to see if any of them can make up that much time. Christian Vandevelde was with the chase group up the mountain but has dropped back to 6th place and is now 4’41” behind and unlikely to make the podium in Paris.
Stage 16: Cuneo – Jausiers
Today we left Italy after a much needed rest day. The route was practically empty until the base of the first climb, the Col de Lombard, where it was packed with Italian racing fans, better known as tifosi. I continued on ahead to the Col de la Bonette-Restafond which is the highest road in Europe.
Schumacher from Gerolsteiner attacked on the Col de Lombard and stayed away with a lead of 4’40” but was caught by a group which included Evans, Vandevelde, Hincapie, Valverde, Menchov, Sastre, Sanchez, Schleck and Kohl. Frenchman Dessel and his group were ahead and he won the stage. Frank Schleck is still in yellow. Kohl and Evans are 07 and 08 seconds behind so depending upon what happens tomorrow at Alpe d’Huez, it could all come down to the time trial. Christian Vandevelde lost a lot of time and is now 3’15” behind.
Stage 15: Embrun – Prato Nevoso
Today was cool and wet, totally the opposite from yesterday which was sunny and blistering hot. I left early, so I wouldn’t have to negotiate around the publicity caravan on the Col d’Agnel. The weather when I drove over the pass was miserable, but apparently eased up when the race crossed. I waited at Prato Nevoso in Italy, a ski resort.
Everything changed today in the race. Cadel Evans lost the yellow jersey to Frank Schleck and another Australian, Simon Gerrans won the stage. American Danny Pate was in the group of 3 with Gerrans and Martinez first to the finish.
Tomorrow is a rest day in Italy.
Stage 14: Nimes – Digne-les-Bains
About 30 minutes before the race start today, a local photographer canceled his day on the motorcycle so I got a bonus day. The course was really uninteresting and we spent way too much time looking for lavender. But at least we finally found some. We had to stay behind and couldn’t pass to the finish but were able to get a few shots on the way in.
Tomorrow is Italy and some big mountains. I’ll be surprised if things aren’t more disorganized there; in the past that’s how it’s been. But a lot of people are looking forward to it – good coffee and good food!
Stage 13: Nimes-Narbonne
Today was a pretty flat, uninteresting stage. It was really hot, at least 100 degrees. The peloton was mostly together and there was a bunch sprint at the finish with Mark Cavendish winning again.
Yesterday morning the entire Saunier Duval team was thrown out of the race because of a positive test from Riccardo Ricco. It was pretty obvious when he was on the podium-he had been really nervous, never smiled and didn’t seem happy to be there. Today the gossip is that his teammate Piepoli was almost positive-internal controls showed some irregularities, so he was fired from his team. And so, it continues….
Today was my stage on the motorcycle. It was a hilly day with tight roads and difficult to pass. We were able to make a couple of passes but then at around 100k we got stuck behind the peloton for around 40 kilometers, until it was time to speed to the finish.
The morning was scandal time. Apparently Riccardo Ricco was doping, so he and his whole team were thrown out of the race. Hopefully that's the end of it, but who knows. I guess they never got the memos.