Day 0 ? Friday, June 30
WORLD CUP joy for Ullrich and Basso! Well, not really, I guess but maybe the success of their respective football teams took their minds off things a bit yesterday.
Still no telly in the Broomwagon, of course. Looks like we may have to buy one with with a super-powerful aerial. We dropped by a little bar in Wasselonne to see the end of the Germany ? Argentina game. Being so close to the border, in a part of France that has been occupied by the Germans and has a distinct Germanic influence, it was little surprise to see allegiances were split.
Explaining that it?s difficult for an Englishman to find much joy in either German or Argentinian success on the football field a burly Frenchman with a big moustache and a fair few strong lagers inside him explain that he just couldn?t stand the sight of the Germans celebrating. ?They?re too close. We?ll be able to hear them all.? Mind you, he admitted he didn?t like the French team much either so perhaps he?s just impossible to please.
Camping is clearly a close-knit fraternity and our arrival back at the Broomwagon usually brings the other residents of Camping Municipal in Wasselonne scurrying over.
When we checked in ? do you check in to a campsite? – we were greeted by an enthusiastic, if rather talkative, French bloke who told us he had visited the same campsite for 25 years and loved it. The way he put it was that he was the ?Hinault ? the patron? of the site and he liked to stroll round and chat to new arrivals and, presumably, see if they?re going to fit in round here. Whether or not he?d sidle over to us and growl under his breath if we so much as dared to light a barbecue we don?t know.
Tonight a Dutch bloke wandered over last night, noting the Cycling Weekly and Cycle Sport stickers on the Broomwagon and spotting our giant sign-on board ? still lacking 50 signatures ? he asked if we were here for the Tour. We broke the news to him that Ullrich, Basso, Mancebo and Vinokourov were all out of the race. He threw his hands up in that mock continental horror and told us all four were in his fantasy Tour de France game he?d entered back at home. ?I will have to send an SMS [text message] to change my team before it?s too late,? he said. I replied that the phone company will be sweeping up with all the changes that are likely to be texted in over the next 12 hours. ?Ah? doping. It?s good for the economics, no??
Having had a very late lunch, dinner was sacrificed in favour of an early night. Well, does five triangles of La Vache Qui Rit (Laughing Cow) cheese count as dinner?
Day 1 ? Saturday, July 1
Prologue day and there was not a cloud in the sky this morning. Let?s hope that is a sign of things to come drug-wise. Strasbourg was rammed. Holding the prologue in a large city always has its problems. The north-east corner of the city is closed off to the public but everyone connected with the race has to cope with the knock-on problems. What they need is a congestion charge.
Watching the first rider ? Frenchman Cedric Coutouly ? roll down the start ramp the sense of relief was palpable. Last night?s rumours that a riders strike was on the cards appeared not to be the case today. In fact, a lot of riders are quietly pleased that the proverbial has hit the fan. One said to me: ?It?s just the tip of the iceberg of this investigation but at least it?s started. This time next year I am confident we?ll be in much better shape.?
The crowd was huge and seemed unconcerned by the negative stories. Perhaps that is the message the riders need to hear loud and clear. If you cheat, cycling will not care about you. You are tiny.
The only complaints so far have come from journalists. There were no freebies with the introductory pack, no rucksacks, no laptop bags, nothing. The wifi internet connection is ludicrously expensive ? 750 euros for the whole Tour or 20 euros a day ? so most are complaining at having to trek to a nearby hotel with free or cheap wifi. There?s also not enough food, only some greasy salami and some dry bread. Ah, poor lambs.
But come on boys, it?s Broomwagon?s birthday. Give me something with a Tour logo on it! Cards and presents most welcome. Send to: The Broomwagon, France.
Right, time for a beer? the photographer?s buying!