Day 2 – Sunday, July 2
Despair at England’s defeat to Portugal in the World Soccerball turned to despair that France had won. French yoof took to the streets at 11pm to celebrate by revving their cars and honking their horns. It carried on until nearly two in the morning and I quickly realised the walls of the Broomwagon are not noise-proof.
Andy, our photographer, and I headed to the start and on the way we saw a fire engine speeding to an emergency. Andy’s really likes it when I mimic his Sheffield accent, it really makes him chuckle. “Oh there he goes, the famous 1970s caberet act and comedian, Les Pompiers,” I said. Andy just carried on driving.
My stint in solitary confinement came to an end this evening when Ed arrived, carrying a rucksack full of Cycling Weekly – and, one hopes, at least a couple of changes of pants – and his bike.
I got frequent text message updates of his journey so I was fully expecting him to arrive with the veins popping out of his forehead, such was the near-miss nature of his journey.
10am: “******* London Underground ********”
Worried this meant he’d missed his tube I texted back. It was a while until I heard anything.
11am “Made it by the skin of my teeth. One broke down train and another sat there for 10 mins at Elephant while I seethed.”
A few hours later came this. “Parisian taxi drivers join my hit list, as does the temporary ticket office at Gare de l’Est, an un-air conditioned hell hole where I anticipate spending the next 30 minutes. Minutes I will never get back.”
I am always impressed by his eloquent and erudite style of writing in a text – particularly given the brevity of the medium. No “French trains R crap. C U l8r” from Ed.
He arrived and downed a beer. “Well, they’re small here, it’s like a soft drink”. I sense the Broomwagon trip is about to spark into life.
Having said that, I wish I’d tidied up a bit before leaving the bus this morning. There are gravel paths all over the campsite and half of the gravel appears to have migrated inside the bus. Ironically we are a Broomwagon without a broom.
The racing was unpredictable again. Jimmy the Friendly Ghost won his first Tour stage after five years of trying and the Mighty Thor lost the jersey. He may, or may not, have been hit by one of those green cardboard hands given out by the French bookmaker PMU. In any case it does seem ludicrous they are not made of foam.
Bobby Julich summed it up as he passed through the lobby of CSC’s Holiday Inn when he shouted to a friend: “Hey, when you are in the yellow jersey and your name is not Lance, weird s**t happens.”
Shortly afterwards Bjarne Riis went out for a ride with a miserable look on his face. It said: “I can’t be bothered to manage this bunch anymore. I may as well get fit instead.”
Chapeau to Erik Zabel: even at the age of 412 he proved he can still finish third to the best of them.