What's Cool In Road Cycling

Pez-Pass 5: Covering The Tour – The Average Day

The pace at the Tour this year is fast and furious. I’m not talking about the rider’s average speed, I’m talking about the pace of an average day following and covering the race. You blink twice it’s tomorrow! I’ve gained a new appreciation for the people who work at the Tour, setting up the courses each day, prepping the start and finish towns, the reporters, and even the podium and promotions girls…

The days are long, really long, France is baking everyday in a heat wave, attempting tounderstand French “logic”, the ongoing search for decent internet connections (which is why you haven’t heard from me or seen the latest pics), getting internet connections, navigating around, to and through new towns is a several-times-daily adventure. To boil it down, my days go something like this, which is pretty much the same for everyone, with small variations. Be warned, this may take away some of some of the glamour being a member of the Tour press…but it’s real.

After riding up the Bonascre yesterday, the smell of this bbq was enough to warrant a photo. Sadly, an invite to lunch was not offered by the chefs.

The Daily Routine
6:30 AM – Wake up at 6:30, eat breakfast, pack.
7:30, 8:00 latest – Check out of hotel, hit the road, Jack. Usually drive 1-2 hours to start.
9:30 AM – Locate parking area, jostle through crowds, usually several thousand people, 10-100 times more at finishes.
10:00 AM – Arrive at Tour Village, hopefully meet up with the riders you called the night before, or other folks you want to talk to. Work the room, snag a few freebies.
11:30 – a. Cow bell rings, bolt to car and start drive to stage finish on route – usually 150-200 km. Some short cuts are optional, but since the Tour route is closed to traffic, it’s actually the fastest and easiest way to go. Temp is now 35Celsius, will climb to 37+ for the drive and rest of stage. Roll down windows.
b. Start ride of route, climb, or local area.
c. stop for coffee because you started cross-country drive 3 hours ago.

2:00PM – Arrive at finish town. Locate media parking.
2:30 – Locate “salle de presse”, set up laptop at work station.
2:45 – Get lunch from the press buffet, which has so far been pre-prepped French-style lunches – some meat, bits of cheese, two small salads – 1 always with mayo, 1 lettuce, a few cold cuts, 3-4 tiny pastries, coke, red wine, or water (always served warm). Let’s just say I’m not planning on adopting this new style of lunch when I get home…
3:15 – Return to press room, watch race finish.
5:30 – Get back to car for transfer to new town and hotel for the night. Drive in 37degrees heat. (Note to self: next time get car with a/c) And since my a/c consists of open windows, the air noise inside the car traveling at highway speeds makes listening to radio futile.
8:00 (9:00) – Get to hotel after figuring out directions for the 5th time today (same as every day). Shower & shave. Have cold beer from mini bar. Attempt to get internet connection from room to check emails and download pics from race photographers who send 1 mb files via 56k modems (only thing avalaible in most towns here.)
8:30-10:00 – Eat dinner. It’s the only break you get all day, so you take a little longer, decompress.
10:00 PM – Download photos from the day, edit, crop, convert images as needed for your story. Write story. Update website with latest pics, news story, etc.
12:00PM – Sleep.

The only place to watch the finish in this heat – fans in the bar watch the finish atop Bonascre.

Also – Add 2-3 hours if I want to ride, and expect to be sweaty, dusty and crusty until I find my hotel for the evening.

But what makes it just another day is that no 2 days are the same, every day is different, but you can count on 2-4 hours of driving (I’m averaging about 1 minute for every kilometer of driving, no matter where I’m going, or what time of day it is), 2-4 hours of work, maybe a couple hours of riding if I’m lucky, and everyday the same hassles (oops, I mean challenges) of navigating, finding internet, and trying to understand the French language and mentallity.

Today I was awake at 3:30 AM because the a/c in the hotel room wasn’t working. So after tossing around for a while, I got up to write this. After breakfast today I’ve got about a 3-5 hour transfer from my hotel in Andorra to today’s second Pyrenean stage and our hotel in Lourdes.

So now it’s almost 7:00AM, so I’d better get down for breakfast!

It’s now 7:40 PM and I made it to Lourdes, a strange town absolutely jammed with people looking for a helping healing hand from the locally blessed waters. Hundreds of thousands of travelers bring their overnight bags and ailments in hopes of health. Not unlike a weird sort of Las Vegas, the town has developed every kind of opportunity to sell these folks some tidbit for their trip – must be seen to be believed.

Also discovered I can’t connect to internet from tonite’s hotel. Quelle surprise! So I’m off to find an internet cafй – it you’re reading this you’ll know I succeeded.
– Still having trouble with email and photos though…

By the way – the pic at top is me in front of the 1km kite on top of Bonascre.

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