Day 15 ? Saturday, July 15

TODAY was the most frustrating day of the trip so far, made all the more annoying by the fact it was also the most intriguing stage of the race.

We went to the start in Beziers and then headed into town for brunch and suddenly it was almost one o?clock. We were then further held up in the car park. Although we?d paid for the ticket the barrier wouldn?t lift. No one was really looking, so we were considering the consequences of driving straight through it when it lifted up. France, eh? You gotta love it.

As soon as we got on the autoroute for the long drive to Montelimar we were caught in Saturday traffic. It is now holiday season and the journey was hot and slow and made all the more unpleasant by the fact that we couldn?t shake off a big articulated lorry containing live pigs.

The poor little porkers must have been sweltering and it was not a lot of fun to pass into their slipstream and breathe in the aroma.

Ed pointed out that their travelling conditions were actually no worse than our own and that at least the pigs could go to the toilet where they stood without upsetting the others. That?s something we?ve not done since the Pyrenees.

After sitting for half an hour waiting to get through the toll booth we realised we were not going to reach Montelimar in time for the stage finish and we needed a contingency.

While options were being discussed I reached for my credit card to pay the toll charge, and carelessly tossed it onto the dashboard. It disappeared down a gap between the speedometer and the steering wheel. I was just running through the disastrous consequences of losing it with a week of the Tour still to go when it dropped out at my feet.

Holding the longest stage of the race ? a 230-kilometre run in a straight line ? does not do us any favours. We realised we?d have to pull over in Nimes to watch the finish on television in a hotel.

It was a long way from being an authentic Tour experience but it was better than being in the press centre with the sheep.

However, it meant we had a long drive and a race against time to reach our campsite before they shut the barriers. We made it with moments to spare, but at least we gave the owner something to frown about and ensure he could maintain his obvious lowly opinion of foreigners.

PS. I?d like to point out that the picture of Ed, Simon and I in some kind of paddling pool, used on this site the other day, is a fake.