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2015 Tour De France
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There was some Deep Stoke at the Mountain Chewbacca camp today.

2015 TDF: Stage 08

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Distance 181.5 km Number of Steps 14,070 steps or 6.8 miles Time of Filing 4:01 AM

Accommodations

I want to start this off today with a letter to Raoul Sturme, our European Director of Operations: Dear Raoul, you are KILLING IT. I mean, your cousin’s house in that one town that I can’t remember the name of right now, the one by Antwerp. And all the AirBnBs. And now, the Qualys Hotel and Spa in Vannes. We really appreciate it. Booking rooms in a different town every every night for a month, in a foreign language, in places you’ve mostly never been to, in conjunction with an Olympic-sized event, has to have been difficult and time consuming. We owe you a Photo Annual. What makes the Quayls so remarkable? 1.) This chic hotel is on the grounds of a retail and office park at the city’s edge. It’s 1.1 km from the A60 highway, and within 3.5 km of the medieval city center and TGV trains. 2.) Minimalist rooms offer free WiFi, air-conditioning and flat-screen TVs. All feature work desks and safes, as well as rainfall showerheads. 3.) English breakfast is served in a casual dining room (fee), plus there’s a hip, airy bar. Guests have access to a modern recreation center with an indoor pool, a Jacuzzi and a steam room, as well as a fitness area. Meeting facilities accommodate 120.

Today’s Objectives

Wake up as late as possible. ✓
Shoot the start. ✓
Find Greg Johnson and Jeremy Dunn. ✓
Make it to the roundabout town. ✓
Make it to the Col. ✓
Make it to the finish. ✓

WIFI Details

Exactly the same as yesterday. Except technically we’re in a different hotel. Without a doubt, this French vacation has been the best French vacation yet in terms of hotel wefeee.

Weather

Cloudy in the morning. Sunny in the afternoon. The only thing as boring as this race’s race course so far is the weather. I’m starting to miss the Dutch Heat Wave. Don’t get me wrong, nice weather is nice, for vacations! But bad weather promotes suffering and misery, and most importantly quality light. Thus far the light at the 2015 Tour de France—I’m about to make a generalization here, which is I know, a shortcut, just bear with me—pedestrian at best, and at worst, repugnant.

DEAR WORLD

RACE REPORT

One time about two years ago on the way home from a ride I dropped into a bus-shaped big wave. It was at the bottom of the sweeping right hand turn that connects the Broadway Bridge and Interstate. It was just one of those things. I saw the bus approaching from the left and so instead of slowing I carried speed right down to the bottom of the hill and right onto the back of the bus. I almost got gapped but I didn’t. And so I surfed that bitch for nearly a mile, maybe more. I was lucky too because there are a series of lights on that section of road that are rarely timed right. I think at one point we were doing forty-plus miles an hour. It was exactly like surfing. After I hooked-in everything went quiet and time was different.

Today, Keiran and I dropped in on a Phil Liggett Gets Police Escorts Off The Mountain-shaped big wave. There we were in wall-to-wall, bumper-to-bumper traffic. Completely stopped. We hadn’t moved in ten minutes—and we’re already forty minutes into this exodus clusterfuck—when from behind us, on the wrong side of the road, we see and hear a Vice Presidential-sized motorcade rapidly approaching. The motos go by first, then a car with NBC stickers all over it and Phil Liggett in the back. They speed right past us and pushed through all shit in front of us in seconds. Naturally I thought since we have stickers on our car the motorcade was probably also meant for us. So I jumped in behind them. At first I thought shit, I waited one second too long to paddle into the best wave of my life. As soon as Phil’s car passed the space behind it started to fill-in with shit show immediately; walkers, cyclists, oncoming cars, etc. But we dug and dug and we got back on right as Phil’s Private Motorcade was cresting the hill we’d been staring at for ten minutes. As we rolled over the other side everything went weightless and quiet. Everyone else was stopped. There was chaos in every direction and on every surface. Everywhere you looked was choked and clogged with humanity but we had a line and it was soooooo good. Over curbs, the wrong way down staircases, through promenades, across lawns, down and down we went. When it felt right I walked up to the nose and tailgated the shit out of Phil, HANG TEN!, at other times for style and because it was fun I’d let Phil’s Private Motorcade get ahead of us a bit and do some turns and cutbacks. It just kept going and going, through town after town. It was the longest left in France. It was rapturous and life affirming. It saved us at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Now I can go home. No seriously, can I go home now?

TODAY'S HIGHS & LOWS

    High Points
  • Seeing Greg Johnson and Jeremy Dunn, and Julie Krasniak!, and Julie’s brother!, and Julie’s brother’s friends!, at the start. In particular Greg, Jeremy and I took a selfie with a sheep then met a dog with mange!
  • Seeing Greg Johnson and Jeremy Dunn, and Julie Krasniak!, and Julie’s brother!, and Julie’s brother’s friends!, at the start. In particular Greg, Jeremy and I took a selfie with a sheep then met a dog with mange!
  • Talking to my media buds. This race is hell for all of us and but so if nothing else it’s nice to commiserate in English. Today I made a new friend. He has curly hair, I can’t remember his name—he’s the dude on the left of Stage 7’s cover photo. Yesterday I made friends with a guy named John. I thought his name was Doug but it turns out it’s John. He’s here shooting cyclocross. We raced to the course together today. This morning Brian Hodes and I high-fived after an emotional conversation. This dude Jim has been helping me out, a lot. It turns out Jered Gruber is kinda dark and raw and I really like this version of him. Anyway, at the French Bicycle Olympics we are all each other’s dudes right, and what do dudes need?, they need support. Speaking of which, if you’re reading this you need to buy a King Kong shirt. It’s about the TDF and America, and bike racing and support and most importantly, King Kong.
    Low Points
  • Allergies. My body is rejecting my face AND I’M OVER IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • After the race passed over the Col du Mont Bel-Air I ran back to the car. It was a little less than a half mile. Over a hill, down a hill. The caravan was still coming past so I had to run in the gutter between the barricades on my left and a never ending, potentially fatal high speed procession of side view mirrors and bike racks on my right. The crowd cheered for me, which, I have mixed emotions about that kind of thing, are they cheering for me?, or laughing at me? What’s worse is the truth is probably both. The point is, in spite of all the walking I’ve been doing the last seven days I couldn't be in worse shape. I don’t think I’ve had my heart rate over 80 for the last three weeks, and now I’m sprinting, in camera gear, in public.
  • Am I a spectacle? A spectacle at the spectacle? Shit, maybe I should lose the pink towel.
  • To that one dude at the finish, you know who you are. Do it again and I will slap you with your own microphone. And photograph it while I’m doing it. And publish it.

TODAY’S GREAT IDEAS

  1. In France a lot of the roads are fluid in terms of their nature and character. One minute you’re cruising along on a 4-lane motorway doing 90 MPH, or whatever that is in KPH, then suddenly and without warning you come to a roundabout, which whatever, you go around it and that’s fine, but on the other side of the roundabout the same road, the D779 for example, is now a one lane country road.
  2. The ENG game here at the TDF is NEXT-LEVEL. Some of the solo guys here are carrying like 5-6 major pieces of documentation equipment. They remind me a lot of those One-Man-Band bros you see at birthday parties and in the subway in New York, you know the ones, they play a number of instruments simultaneously using their hands, feet, limbs, and various mechanical and/or electronic contraptions.
  3. Chimping Restraint! You’ve got to have it!!!!, you’ve got to exercise it!!!! You’re at the start, you see a guy carrying around a dead dog he’s pretending is still alive, and you stop him and take a photograph of his dead dog, YOU CAN’T immediately flip your camera over it and do a snap scan. It’s rude and inconsiderate. You wait. You walk away from the moment, then you check. Then you fist pump the sky.
  4. Speaking of skies, what is it about the sky over France that makes French cellphone reception so bad? Is it some kinda issue with particulates? A Bermuda Triangle deal, maybe a vortex or unusual magnetic activities? Because let me tell you something, I’ve been to rural-as-fuck Colombia and they have 4G just floating around among the street meat stalls and coffee plantations. Is the 3G here just lazy? Is there some kind of productivity governor on it? I know you guys like your 30 hour work week and 4 weeks paid vacation. Which, yes, of course, those things are ALL wonderful. But, and this is a serious question, is the government mandating slower connectivity speeds for fear of unwanton and unseemly productivity?
  5. Yesterday I drove backwards for about a mile down a crowded less-than-one-lane road without running anyone over. At one point were going 22 MPH, or whatever that is in KPH. Also it required weaving on account of all the people and stopped vehicles on the edge of the road.
  6. Maybe I stupid but just to be clear, from smallest to biggest it goes col, côte, climb right? If that’s true, I just figured it out today.

LEARNING FRENCH RACE PHRASES #6

AN EXPLORATION, A GLOSSARY, A CATALOG FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

Je dois marcher sur le parcours.

I have to walk along the course. 

Je ne suis pas porter ce dossard désinvolture, ceci est une bavette d’affaires.

I’m not wearing this bib casually, this is a business bib. 

Mon entreprise, il prend des photos.

My company, it takes pictures.

Je dois marcher le parcours sans obstacle pour cela.

I have to walk the course without obstruction in order to do this. 

Par conséquent, ergo, vis a vis, cesser de vouloir baiser avec moi.

Therefore, ergo, vis a vis, stop trying to fuck with me.

A CHRONOLOGICAL BREAKDOWN OF THE DAY’S EVENTS

  • 11:30 AM: We made it to the start with help from the bible.
  • 1:05 PM: Followed the deviation to St. Méen le Grand. A roundabout in a suburb of a suburb of a suburb. Cool water towers though. Photographed the race.
  • 2:15 PM: Followed the deviation toward Col du Mont Bel-Air.
  • 2:58 PM: Arrived in Collinée, barged onto the course, drove the course to the top and just beyond Col du Mont Bel-Air. Photographed the race.
  • 3:30 PM: Left Mont Bel-Air on the course, made our way back to the deviation and eventually the final climb and finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne.
  • 4:30 PM: Arrived at the top of Mûr-de-Bretagne.
  • 5:15 PM: Photographed the finish.

RENNES START

Facts according to the Tour de France’s PARTEGEONS LA PASSION

  1. Prefecture of Ille-et-Vilaine.
  2. 210,000 inhabitants (Rennais).
  3. Economy: industtry (30,000 companies including PSA), Technopole Rennes Atalante, university centre with 17 elite schoos.
  4. Culture: Breton Parliament, Palais Saint-Georges, Saint-Pierre Cathedral, Basilica of Saint-Saveur, half-timbered and polychrome houses (17th century), Halles Martenont Opera, National Theatre of Brittany, Museum of FIne Arts, La Criée (Contemporary Arts Centre), Les Champs Libres (cultural complex which brings together the Museum of Brittany, the science centre and the central library), FRAC Bretagne (regional Fund for Contemporary Art). Festivals: Travelling (film), Les Tombées de la Nuit (Street theatre), Le grad Soufflet (accordion), Trans Musicales (contemporary music).
  5. Sport: Stade Rennais (football, Ligue 1), Rennes Volley 35 (Pro B), 10 cycling clubes including ASPIT Rennes. Events: Rennes sur Rouletts (Rennes on Wheels), Horse, Donkey and Pony Festival, Tout Rennes Court (running), Tennis Open.
  6. Specialties: petit gris de Rennes (melon), gallete-saucisse (pancake-wrapped sausage), parlementin (apple-based pastry), cider.
  7. Sustainable Development: 130 km of cycle routes, self-service bicycles, transport network using buses and automatic metro.
  8. Distinctions; city of art and history, French Tech, Ecoréseau de Chaleur (reusable energy award).
"I’ve been watching the Grand Prix every day."

Julie Best, Keiran's mom... Grand Prix, Tour de France, whatever

ST. MÉEN LE GRAND

COL DU MONT BEL-AIR

"When was the last time you washed that towel?"

Greg Johnson

MÛR-DE-BRETAGNE FINISH

Facts according to the Tour de France’s PARTEGEONS LA PASSION

  1. Main town in canton in the Côtes d’Armor.
  2. 2,200 inhabitants (Mûrois).
  3. Economy: agriculture, green tourism, aquatic activities, Lake Guerlédan hydroelectric dam (the manmade lake is being drained this summer because of work taking place on the dam and the sight of the valley submerged since 1930 is impressive0.
  4. Culture: Roche Guéhennec Castle, Sainte-Suzanne Chapel, Notre-Dame de Bon-Repos Abbey, Forges des Salles, Nantes-Brest canal, Breizh-Nevez celtic circle, Fest-Noz (festive gatherings based around traditional dances, given UNESCO World Heritage status).
  5. Sport: outdoor activities (sailing, canoeing, water skiing, hiking, riding, mountain biking, orienteering, climbing), outdoor recreation and leisure, mountain biking centre (300 km of routes), Association Cycliste du Lav Guerlédan (ACL). Event: Trail de Guerlédan.
  6. Specialties: crepes, galette-saucisse (pancake-wrapped sausage), pancakes with potato puree.
  7. Sustainable Development: BioZone Fair (regional organic farming fair), cycle paths (the V6 and V8 Véloroutes and Voies Vertes, as well as the Véelodyssée, a circuit connecting the south of England to Hendaye, passes through Mûr-de-Bretagne).
  8. Distinction: Côtes d”Armor mountain biking hub.

MANUAL FOR SPEED’S INBOX

Letters to the Editor

 

Coming to Slovenia?

Hey, I follow your TdF reporting (and everything else for that matter, I’ve checked the whole MFS page) and I saw you are thinking of coming to Slovenia  You should, it’s a beautiful place, no decent clubbing though. Some fine cyclist do come from our parts, like Jani Brajkovič (UHC), Simon Špilak (just won Tour of Swizzerland), Jan Polanec, Luka Megec… Five time winner of RAAM, Jure Robič, was Slovenian. There is a pocket-size race, Tour of Slovenia, held every year about two weeks before TdF (Nibali won it in 2010). So, perhaps next year you could use it as a warm up for TdF 

Basically I’m only taking the opportunity of you mentioning Slovenia, to say I really enjoy your reporting; photos and writing alike. It does have a different twist to it and it’s a treat. Keep up the good work and best of luck getting through TdF!

Blaž

 

Dear Blaz,

  1. First of all, thanks for the kind words!
  2. Second of all, thanks for the heads-up about the clubbing scene. Which is surprising. Where then? Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria? The Ukraine?!??!
  3. I think the Universe wants me to be friends with Slovenia. As a result of following the Giro there for a stage about three years ago, I’ve made and maintained friendships with a couple of other Slovenians. What’s the deal with Slovenia, why is everyone there so dialed in terms of bikes and bike culture? It’s Slovenia is amazing as it would appear?
  4. I love LOVE love that you described a race as “pocket” sized.
  5. Slovenia has the coolest letter tricks (diacritical marks) of any country/language yet!
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