The excitement was high at the start of Stage 8 of the Tour de France. However, that was just for us, for this is the first time for me to pick my way through the starting village of this great race. The riders however, I cannot speak for them. The ones that we could see — peeking their heads out of a bus to grab someone — checking with mechanics to see whether small repairs had been made to their machines — these riders were a mix of indifference and excitement. There was genuine nervous looks as some of the riders, even some of the more well known, grabbed for their bikes and started the long weave through fans to the rider sign in and start of the race.
There is no sense in hiding it either. The Start Village becomes — and rather quickly so — a hilarious stomping ground for all walks of life. Over the course of an hour we saw so many strange and wonderful people — all there to gawk at skinny cyclists — that I wouldn't don't know where to begin. So, I'll try the beginning.
Julie had some passes lined up for us from AG2R. Passes are the best way into the village. She was relying on her time with the French National Team (her coach now works for AG2R) and her pals JCP and Alexis Vuillermoz (yes, we will get to him later) to make this happen. Although, it is plain to see that after a good solid 15 minutes of holding back, people are jumping over the fences left and right. The only problem was, that our passes were inside the start area, so we were left to jump over some fences. I ripped my shorts. Classy start to the day.
Most of what is on display in the village are the bikes and the cars in the caravan. The bikes are severely locked to the tops of cars, except for when they are needed for minor adjustments. The cars in the caravan, well, there must be some sort of order to how they line up, but it wasn't apparent to me. What is apparent that AG2R is taking their role as the state sponsored team very seriously, and it is starting to pay off. Or at least it did today. Side Note: did you know that Johann Vansummeren is now on that team? Seriously.
If you are into the Tour bikes, if you get geeked out about Mavic wheels and fresh paint jobs on bicycles that you've never seen before. Or looking closely for things that probably aren't in use with the rest of us clowns, then this village is for you. For that matter if you're into the cars of the peloton, which, surprisingly a lot of people are, there is plenty for you to gawk at.
The cult of Sagan and Tinkoff Thrive Together
As much as this guy dresses, and acts like a clown, his cult status among the bros of bro-ettes of the peloton glitteratie grows. It grows when he sticks with the best sprinters in the world. It grows when he hangs with the best climbers in the world, and apparently it grows when he clicks his heels on the podium. Fear not though citizens. No matter how many times his fans sang their songs at his bus and waved their flags, he did not dare step to the outside world. His deepest darkest thoughts remain hidden behind his large smoky glasses.
Also, can we just say that Tinkoff seems to be taking their art direction from him as well. We saw them experiment with this cammo scenario a little bit last year, but it seems that Sagan has helped push them over the edge. I'm attributing it to him, but it may be many many gelled hairstyles conspiring together. The thing that they did get right was this use of hi vis yellow.
photo by Thomas Krasniak
AG2R Are The Rock Stars of the French Peloton
Sure, there are bigger names in cycling at this race, but there are hardly bigger FRENCH names in this race. Watching the mob grow outside of the team bus was awesome. What was even more awesome was watching team guards turn away two cute French ladies (one is my wife, I might be biased, the other, her sister) and then turn around to find that the riders were actually interested in talking with them. What did this do? Drive the rest of the crowd mad as they pressed in to hear a word of what could be transpiring.
We went for a ride with our new favorite cycling commentator Juan Antonio Flecha the night before the stage and he was asking us who would be our pick for today. Julie responded instantly that he should watch out for Alexis Vuillermoz - his 6th at Fleche Wallone and his 9th overall at Criterium International being her two citations. Well, apparently she knows how to pick them (check out the final two photos in this set where she tells Alexis he's going straight to the top).
Team Sky has the coolest car going for them.
Vanille, fraise, pistache. That's vanilla, strawberry and pistachio for those playing at home. Thankfully, le schtroumpfs match the blue in Team Sky, or we would really be in trouble. Or maybe the Team Sky drivers paint those on every wall that they park next to? Could be a fun way to engage with their followers?
Andrew Talansky likes things just so...
We are standing near the Garmin Cannondale bus waiting for Daniel from MFS. We'll get to him later. Greg and I are laughing about the apropos impromptu naming of them as Garmindales (Rescue Rangers? Too much?) and at the same time watching Talansky go over his bike with his mechanic. The mechanic tells him not one, not two, but three times that he hasn't touched his saddle. Then Andy asks what the tire pressure is at "6.4 bar" he is told. "Make it 6.5" he says and slings a leg over the top tube and rides out through the crowd. About a minute and a half later we see him roll back through the crowd and direct himself to the mechanic again, this time holding up two fingers in a relative "c" shape that says to anyone watching that the saddle is off, just a little bit.
Who know's how long that went on, because before you know it, this handsome devil is strolling towards us after having just taken a photo of a man in short shorts riding a recumbent bicycle...
Manual For Speed Does The Tour de France...Hard!
If you haven't been following along with what these guys are doing, you probably should. From their Yonder Journal Musings on over to their Manual for Speed, well, manuals these cats have something going on. So, Greg and I took some selfies with Daniel and a sheep and Daniel and some professional cyclists. Then we watched him continue the trend by taking a selfie with the two most tanned ladies we have ever seen. Can't wait to see how that one turns out.
From there the race was off and underway. Well, first we saw all the riders that had been unceremoniously hiding in their vans roll down to the start. An Alberto here, a Pippo Pozzato there, Chris Froome flashes by in Yellow followed by the rest of his team and then the Italian National Champion who looks a lot like Nibali. And then they were off.
Now, I could bore you with the rest of my day. Topless ladies at the beach. An old fortress out near the water or the best crepe shop in all of Renne, but I'm sure that would get boring quickly enough. Tomorrow we will check out the TTT and see what we can see see see. (Sorry for that).