I have stayed in Lourdes twice before and vowed each time never to return, yet there I was. For three nights.

With a rest day in Pau, the teams had the luxury of three nights in the same bed, something the Tour rarely offers once it leaves the Grand Depart. Obviously, the Tour organisers booked out a good percentage of Pau’s accommodation before even letting the great unwashed know the race route. Then the organised and the competent among the took the rest before the end of January. Then there was me.

My next choice was Tarbes, another decent little town with pleasant restaurants, followed by one of the little Logis de France in one of the picturesque villages nestling in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Of course I left it all to the last minute and experienced a day-and-a-half of frustration trying to book a room in Anywhere But Lourdes. Without success.

Ed had suggested ringing the hotel Agritubel were staying at and asking if I could have Christophe Moreau’s room but the Lourdes hotel was already paid for and it would have been a wanton waste of the company’s money not to turn up just because the place gives me the creeps. There’s no space for that on the expenses form.

I tried to spend as little time as possible in Lourdes town centre, which made the experience slightly more bearable.

After the first positive dope test of the Tour, courtesy of Manuel Beltran, I got a few texts and emails from friends at home who are not cycling fans but keep an ear out at Tour de France time.

Basically they all mocked me and my entire career choice. They may not have meant to but they did.

One read: “Seven days it took. That’s better than last year, ha ha.”

Another said: “Why don’t they just finish every stage outside the chemists?”

Another read: “Are you coming home now?”

There was a strange reaction to the news of Beltran’s positive, with some journalists asking leading questions of riders and managers. “Isn’t this just a case of one of the old guard,” they asked. The line was that either it was one last throw of the dice by a 37-year-old, or it was a case of old habits dying hard.

Whichever, there seemed to be a willingness among some to come rapidly to the conclusion that doping is something only the ‘old guard’ do and that anyone born after, say 1980, wouldn’t possibly dope.

After news broke that 27-year-old Moises Duenas of Barloworld had tested positive, that hypothesis was shattered. Here was a rider who would have been a teenager when the Festina scandal ruined the Tour in 1998.

It is taking around a week for the results of the dope tests to be made public. Duenas tested positive after last Tuesday’s time trial in Cholet. Like a hideous echoey delay on a long-distance phone line, it’s taking a while for the message to finally sink in.

Beltran’s result was known on Friday afternoon in Aurillac. Anyone who tests positive as the result of a test from Saturday onwards really will qualify for the title of Stupidest, Most Selfish Doper of 2008.

The Rest Day rarely offers any chance of a rest, although this year it was largely self-inflicted.

Two years ago, we faced a long drive from Vannes in Brittany to Bordeaux in the camper van, a journey which took all day and most of our patience and good humour to complete.

Last year in Pau, the race melted down with the news of Alexandre Vinokourov?s positive dope test, meaning a long evening spent watching not very much happen at their hotel.

This year, I opted for a bike ride, which you can read all about in the CW Rides… feature on this site.

CW’S DOMESTIQUE’S GUIDE

Cycling Weekly comes over all Judith Chalmers…

HOTEL ACCOMMODATION

Best Western Beausejour, Lourdes

Tarif: 115 euros per room per night

Facilities: Perfectly adequate

Room: Small with a single bed and a tiny television on a stand so close to the ceiling it was almost impossible to watch in comfort

Bed: Spongy, like riding on a slow puncture you know won’t make it all the way home

Staff: Polite, if a bit ponderous, as if they’re waiting for a much, much more important guest than you to check in any minute (if you know what I mean)

Ambiance: Reverential

Surroundings: Awful

CW RATING:

Tour de France 2008EVENING MEALS

Best Western Beausejour, Lourdes

How can the French get magret de canard – duck steak – so wrong? A great layer of sloppy wet fat sat on a tough, chewy breast of duck. Instantly forgettable

CW RATING:

Tour de France 2008

Unnamed pizzeria, Lourdes

Lourdes does not offer much in the way of culinary finery. We ate at this pizza restaurant last year and it wasn’t any good then either. Robert found something spongy in his beer.

CW RATING:

Tour de France 2008LIFE AT THE TOUR: PREVIOUS BLOGS

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TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 11: Arvesen wins

Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary

Cavendish battles through Pyrenees

Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]

Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour

Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Neltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage 11

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage nine

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part three

Life at the Tour part two

Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>

News and features>>

All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>

Day by day summary>>

Route & stages>>

Teams and riders>>

About the Tour>>