Velogal's Blog

Friday, July 01, 2005

Finally, things are set up and I’m back online. Of course, my first motel has no wifi connection, and only a primitive, iffy and expensive dial-up connection. My drive from De Gaulle to the Vendee was incredibly slow – I was told later that Thursday was the start of the French vacation season. I knew that it would be crowded on the Autoroute around Paris, but it was midday – I didn’t expect that kind of commute traffic.

Lance and Johan had a small press conference last night here at the Permanence (the headquarters of the ASO), where the Press Room is located here in Challans. I was in the next room, delayed getting my press credentials because mine (and many other press folk) forms were lost or misplaced. So when I finally got around the corner of the auditorium, the photographers were already stacked up. I slowly made my way to the center of the aisle, and kinda crept up to where I could get a couple of shots,

The first “rule of the road for photographers” is to not crowd into someone else’s space, not get in front of someone’s shot - so one always treads gingerly here. A subtle questioning glance usually brings an affirmative nod from a colleague and you are OK to move up, as long as you mind your position and professional manners.

Lance looked really good - relaxed and rested – and was mellow with the questions. Johan looked like he’d just arrived from a long trip – he looked kinda tired. He saw me and gave a quick smile of recognition. Lance did most of the talking – the press conference was short and to the point. Yes, he is really stoked about getting Number Seven – he is serious and means business about it. Yes, he thinks Jan is his biggest threat. Yes, he will miss Eki. Yes, the team is stronger this year than ever before. No, he does not know who will take his place as leader of DC next year.

The official presentation of the team is starting in a couple of hours, and I seriously doubt that I can drive anywhere near the area. It is an absolute traffic zoo out there right now – I just drove here from my hotel in Ste Gilles, and I could hardly get through the streets of Challans. I think the ceremonies are walking distance… I hope.

OK – Fast forward – it’s now almost 11 pm, and I am in the most ironic location, using my laptop. Here’s the story: the pressroom at the Tour closed at 10 pm. I had walked several blocks to the downtown area for the presentation, and didn’t get back until about 20 minutes before the pressroom closed. So I found out that the only Orange Hotspot was at the Mercure Hotel in St. Jean Monts, about 20-30 kilometers away. I drove over – it was hard to find, but I persevered. As I drove into the parking lot, what did I see but the T-Mobile team bus.

Yes – the entire T-Mobile team is here, and it looks like several of then are still in the bar, talking, .No, I don’t see Jan. But can you image how the heads turned and the undertone of German muttering grew stronger as I walked in with my Discovery Team hat on!!! I said, “Good evening, gentlemen”, in both English and French. But they just impassively stared. So, here I sit, writing my blog, with a bright yellow LiveStrong banner on my laptop lid, wearing my DC hat, right in the middle of T-Mobile Territory. Maybe they think I am not-too subtly spying for Lance.

The Go Lance Hat photo is one I took at the team bus while zillions of fans were milling around. These two guys are from Orange County, California (originally from Salvador and Guatemala). They’re obviously big Lance fans and were good sports to pose with the Go Lance hat. So Lance now has his hat and gloves and is ready to do Tour battle.


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