My uncle is currently living what could be either a dream or a nightmare depending on your perspective. He’s riding the Tour de France – not as a combatant, obviously, but riding many of the stages a day ahead of the Tour itself. Last year I had my own up-close-and-personal encounter with the Maillot Jaune, and can testify to thrill of following these guys around the high mountains (though the idea of riding up them makes me feel faintly nauseous). Howard will correspond from France when he’s not too exhausted to type (IE this has a very good chance of being all we hear from him).
Had one of those days yesterday. Everything just got better. After having the 10k Col du Telegraphie for starters we main coursed on the brutal Col du Galibier 17km’s at an average of 7.5%. The brutality made as much by the short distance between them. 5 kms from summit of one to the climb of the next. In essence you are are never out of climbing mode.
We finished by riding to Saint Jean-de-Maurienne to watch the finish of the Tour de France stage. It was said that this stage was going to be important and so it proved. On the Col du Madelienne Cadel Evans was to get smashed by Schleck and Contador. He eventually finished 8 minutes down and handed the yellow jersey to Andy Schleck. The battle between Schleck and Contador was amazing. Completely inseparable, they finished together. At the time however I didn’t know this. Wondering around the finishing shute I saw an interesting roundabout that lead the riders around and down to their team buses.
It was surrounded by police and officials but I could see that from a certain point none of them could see me if I jumped the barriers and got onto the grassy centre piece. So I did. I just lay down and tried to look like an official photographer with my point-and-shoot camera. After half an hour the activity around me starting getting serious and the close overhead helicopters signalled the climax of the stage. [Photos are after the jump]
Suddenly there was a massive media surge. It was Contador. After 205kms of chasing breaks he was trying to create one from the media. But we (yes by now I am an unofficial media slut) cornered him and he just had to give an interview. Only one New Zealand photographer with a point and shoot gets you this close: