It seems somewhat odd writing this sitting in my Paris apartment nearly a week after the time trial has finished but I managed to get some good shots from the day Cadel clinched his historic victory and thought it would be worthwhile posting them up and giving you some personal impressions of the day.
Generally I find watching time trials pretty boring and I have to admit the first part of the day became that – we arrived early in Grenoble and were dropped right outside the Mercure where the Cofidis, Astana and Movistar buses were set up – a whole row of Look time trial bikes were stacked against the building and the Cofidis mechanics had already set up the warm-up area roped off on the footpath with their stands set up next to the bus.
What was interesting about the time trial day is that we could wander around and get up pretty close and personal to a number of the teams and riders as they completed their runs. We did a circuit of the large park where the start and finish areas were located and stopped for a while next to the entrance of a large stadium where most of the teams were set up behind barriers. As it happened Cadel rode past into the area just as we arrived in full kit on his bike. I read yesterday that he may have ridden the full course in the morning – if so his kit would suggest that might have been the case as it was about 11am at that stage.
As you can see below we could get quite close to see the riders heading out across the park to the holding area.
Next we wandered right around to the area immediately behind where the finish was and this was pretty fascinating primarily because we were lucky enough to catch Cancellara finish followed almost immediately by Cavendish.
In each case I was staggered at the behaviour of the media pack – in Cancellara’s case he seemed pretty spent with the effort and did a slow circle on the bike before coming to a rest next to the side of a large van, head down, chest heaving. Almost immediately he was surrounded by TV crews, photographers and journalists shoving microphones in his face while his minder tried to take his helmet and put a jacket over his shoulders.
Then, while all of this was going on Cav came in, looking somewhat more relaxed than Cancellara and clearly enjoying the banter and support from the crowd and his interview.
After both riders finished with the media they headed down the road behind the finish area to warm down – each followed by a stampede of onlookers rushing to get an autograph or to just follow their heros – amazing behaviour.
Other views from the finish area:
After enjoying the shenagans in the finish area we wandered back towards the direction of the start area wondering how we were going to kill the next 3 or so hours until the leading group of riders including Cadel hit the start ramp. Grenoble is a confusing flat and relatively nondescript city with no apparent centre that can be easily located from where we were wandering. Eventually we stumbled into the centre which was located in a handsome square surrounded by some nice civic buildings overlooked by a fort up on the hill.
And we found a small square a few blocks away that had some nice cafes where we settled in for the next few hours for a nice long alcoholic lunch in front of the TV watching the progress of the time trial. The cafe was full with a boisterous group of Norwegians cheering on Bossen Hagen and Husvold when they came through. Next to us were two groups of older french men having a vigorous and lengthy debate over an extended lunch about who was likely to win the Tour and the relative merits of the top group of riders – one group backed Cadel and one the Schlecks with the debate lasting long into the afternoon and becoming more empassioned as the wine and warm sun took its toll.
As the start of the lead group of riders approached we made our way back to the start area which was by now packed with thousands of spectators. I had no chance of getting a good position to view the starting gate so I headed back towards the holding area about 200 meters back to watch the final group of the leading riders come through.
Have a look at the next series of photos.
Each rider had the story of the race of truth written in his body language – Sanchez looked like a caged tiger – constantly riding up and down and full of nervous energy, the Schlecks both looked as nervous and as anxious as a grade 3 kid about to do his first school speech, Contador looked like he always does – inscrutable.
However look at the shots of Cadel. He was composed, focused and completely in control.
I thought he looked like he had already won.
It was incredibly moving and the tension and excitement in the crowd was palpable. I caught the eye of one of the BMC mechanics sitting in the back of the car waiting for Cadel’s starting slot and held up my hand with 2 fingers crossed and he waved back a V for victory sign in return. It was a nice connection in amongst everything going on around.
As soon as Cadel left the starting ramp I raced down the street and ducked into a cafe to watch the next 50 minutes as Cadel went head to head with the Schlecks. We shared the same nail biting agony as the rest of you watching in the small hours in one of the most intense hours of sport I think I have ever seen or experienced .
When Cadel came around the final turn the cafe I was in, now packed with spectators erupted. We couldn’t believe what we had just witnessed and an impromptu “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi !!” erupted around the cafe.
Magic. Intense. Emotional. Incredible. Historic Epic – you name it – all the superlatives and cliches seemed appropriate at that moment.
What a year to come to the Tour.
An incredible end to an incredible day, followed by a mad dash to the supermarket for bottles of champagne, a madcap bus transfer to the train station and a fairly raucus transfer by private train up to Paris, twitter feeds going crazy with excitement.
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