Day 5 ? Wednesday, July 5

We missed dinner tonight and I am man enough to accept my share of the blame.

It was a long day. Ed and I got up at 7.30 so we could go for a quick spin up the Cauberg to blow away the cobwebs. Amazingly, after a week of blisteringly hot weather, our 40-minute ride coincided with the only 40 minutes of rain so far.

After an epic taxi ride back from Valkenburg town to our campsite on Tuesday evening, during which our driver was stopped and searched by the ?Taxi Inspectors? before resuming his journey at a truly terrifying speed while looking over his shoulder to tell us what he thought of the Dutch police, I was beginning to feel we were in some kind of ?Truman Show?s European Vacation.?

The Cauberg looked a bit of a sorry state the morning after the day before, particularly during the downpour. Beer cans and hundreds of copies of the newspaper handed out by Aquarel ? the official water of the Tour de France ? littered the road. The chemical toilets positioned to relieve the bladders of thousands of drunked Dutchmen (and women) had tipped over. I pointed out to Ed, as our chemical toilet expert, that he could lend a hand. He was not amused.

He was to be even less amused 14 hours later.

After the stage start in Huy we swung by Namur railway station to collect Chris Sidwells and his hair care products. Chris is staying with us for a few days and will no doubt enlighten the trip with stories of his days as an undercover policeman that will make the antics of the druggies in the peloton seem like kids scrumping apples.

Anyway, we had work to do so we stopped for lunch at a hotel still in Belgium so we could get on with some work while watching the stage on television.

Ed nearly lost a lot of money when he bet a million pounds the Bradley Wiggins group would get caught. In return I bet him five euros they would stay clear. The result hung sufficiently in the balance for me to inform him that he?d be paying me £300 a month for the next 277 and a bit years.

After the finish, we started the long, long drive back into France, down to Compiegne and across country into Deliverance territory at Pierrefonds.

We arrived at 9.30, knowing that France had already kicked off their World Cup semi-final with Portugal and that the chances of getting an evening meal were about as likely as the Spanish authorities actually naming those tennis players and footballers on their special list.

The lady at the campsite assured us we?d still be able to get a meal in town but Chris made the very valid point that that was before she?d taken our money. Once we?d paid her for our camping berth she no doubt retreated upstairs to carve a beautiful joint of pork while laughing.

Down in town, the creperie said a polite ?non? but guaranteed us the Café de Commerce in the town square, where everyone was watching the football, would

serve us.

We got there and our hearts and stomachs sank. Five hundred French fans singing ?Allez les Bleus? while drinking beer. Not a plated meal to be seen. We were resigned to going hungry.

Ed, who has no discernible fat reserves to call upon, took the news the least well. I?m afraid it?s fair to say he sulked at the prospect of eating Laughing Cow cheese triangles and six-day old pain au chocolat for dinner.

Things took a turn for the worse when we returned to the camper. For some reason there was no power, and so no light. Then the main window fell clean out as I was trying to open it to let in some air for the night.

And we wanted to give Chris such a warm welcome. Tonight we are a shambles.


The window was repaired, although the fear that it may fly out and cause some horrendous pile-up behind us nags in the back of the mind. The table has broken but the lights work, so it?s not all bad. At the start in Beauvais today Chris stated his intention to track down Tom Boonen and ask him why he?s not winning. ?Ask him why he had a face like a smacked arse on the podium yesterday,? quipped Ed. Perhaps he got to his campsite late and missed his dinner. I nearly said.