Drumming up at the Tour: stage 4

I was at the finish of Stage 4 at Mûr-de-Bretagne. Much to my frustration was not able to get my images uploaded at the time, but a selection have now been added, along with a few thoughts of the day.

Mûr de Bretagne climb
The Mûr-de-Bretagne climb is short but steep

At Mûr de Bretagne I was nearly 3 hours in advance of the riders but all the best spots on the climb were taken. So I settled in lower down, knowing I wouldn’t see much of the real action but would be able to shoot pictures and be in prime position for caravan tat. The plastic bag-cum-raincape that they hand out came in handy as the wind blowing in from the Atlantic brought numerous showers.

Caravan Carrefour caps
The caravan allows grown adults to act like kids for an hour- I too got my share of promotional tat

The riders came by in a flash and were covered in a thin film of mud. Evans, Gilbert and Hushovd were all visible at the front and Wiggins was instantly recognisable in his British champs jersey some 20 places back.
Gilbert in polka dots
Rigoberto Uran of Sky, 4th on the stage, keeps an eye on Gilbert in the polka dots. The Belgian had a go and appeared to be chasing down his leader Van den Broeck, but I wonder if it wasn’t supposed to be a lead-out for Gilbert, who couldn’t quite follow.

Watching each other
Meanwhile Lotto’s GC man, Jurgen Van den Broeck watches the two Rabobank riders. His attack caused a gap, which was closed by Gilbert before Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador took over at the top.

There were lots of gaps as the domestiques, such as Marcus Berghardt of BMC, who had been keeping Evans safely near the front, rolled in.

Marcus Burghardt, BMC

Cav had been dropped and had a couple of teammates with him.

Cav and HTC-Highroad

Swiss Champ

Later on, the autobus came past at a visibly steadier pace.

Autobus

But it had clearly been a hard day’s racing for a lot of riders.

Lampre ISD and Saur-Sojasun

The atmosphere was jovial with fans from Norway and Britain noticeable, and a few Scots clocked my club gilet and came over to chat. For me it was all about taking in the atmosphere and after the riders passed, I jumped on my bike and mashed the pedals, in my shorts and trainers, up a gorge parallel to the main climb, that was much more winding and less brutal in gradient than the road used in the Tour.

Up at the stage finish everyone was leaving but I had never seen the ligne d’arivee before, so I mooched around seeing what I could see, wondering if any British journalists might be around. The team cars and buses were all heading rapidly off to the hotels as I expected.

Lo and behold Ellis Bacon of Cycling Weekly walked past and he kindly indulged me with a bit of banter. At the stage finish the journalists are at the mercy of the teams it appears- certain riders are sent out to the mixed zone for a sort of press conference but if you need specific quotes or interviews, you’ll need to persist at the team hotel or at the start the following day. It sounds like a gruelling job but I realised many writers will not spend the full 3 weeks in France.

An amusing side point: I realised French children are just as naive as British ones, when one came up to me and said “tu as fait le Tour de France?”

One of the highlights of the day was finding a makeshift bar that had been set up in a barn on the other side of the hill, serving beer and gallette saucisse. It was just the ticket.

Then a nice descent back down the Gorge de Poulancre, and another stiff little climb around some back roads to the village where my car was parked.

Next post will be on the Stage 6 depart, where I snuck in to the teams area and got up close to the bikes and riders.