We had one more day at the Tour and the Team Trial was to be it. Hot in terms of the action? Well, maybe calculated would be a more accurate term. However, the one thing that a time trial offers that the others do not is an extended staging area to check out all the cyclists. So, you know what that means? Into the fray! It was a warm overcast day in Vannes and perfect to cruise the strip looking at thinning cyclists and their team setups. From Brailsford and Flecha to Trek Factory racing's official mascot Herbie (was it Herbie?) the Merino sheep that is there solely to promote good will— the Tour de France delivers.
If bicycles are your thing, the TT is the place to be. It doesn't even matter if you're not that into "time trial bikes" either. The oversized Campagnolo cranks with their bulbous carbon patterns weaving throughout are a good place to start. Then move over to those crazy LOOK bicycles that were made just for this race. Probably will be used one time and one time only - ok maybe they were used the first day as well - but you get what I'm talking about. They're amazing looking by the way!
Ok, granted these guys have been in a little bit of trouble this Tour. Well, actually, when we get down to it, when haven't they been in trouble? Trouble follows them around like the rocket artillery that they are named after. So, their team was a bit light for this Time Trial. What of it? They still had one of the coolest pieces of swag that I saw on this day - these Russian nesting water bottles that they were using. That has to prove that while they may be crazy, Ekimov still has a sense of humor, right? Maybe nesting dolls are a grave matter and I'm reading this all wrong?
Also, their mechanics have great taste in matching their footwear to their hosiery. Check that out! The Athletic Team Tigre Mis Matched Sock combined with whatever bright and right footwear these guys have and you're ready to go go go! Like a Russian Rocket! In all fairness this mechanic knew our friend Flecha and once he got his eyes on our socks he wouldn't let up till they were on his feet. Luckily he and Flecha raced together in their native Spain so that eased the transition.
Juan Antonio Flecha
Speaking of our pal Flecha, he was in full effect at the Team Time Trial. We found him near the Team Sky bus where he was about to shoot a segment on Froom and Thomas' custom 3D printed handlebars and how they were going to revolutionize cycling competition. Can you image the preying mantis positions that Landis would have done from day to day if he could have?
Anyway, we captured a few photos of Flecha with his Team Wooly Mammoth Cap and his Zig Zag socks as he roamed around through the team busses. He was also stoked to do a team photo with all our socks. In fact, if we are just talking about stoke alone, this guy was carrying the entire weight of the Tour on his back. In the span of about 20 minutes we watched him talk to three teams, sign autographs, shoot a segment, run to another team bus, hi-five his old teammates and introduce us to nearly a hundred people.
Hats off to our new favorite cycling commentator. Bonus points for wearing the cap at the end of the stage when he was interviewing the riders as they crossed the finish line. We have officially made it!
I had to include Astana in here. Mainly because Lars Boom and I had a moment before the start. He rolled up in a car and that car stopped right in front of me. We were eye level for a moment and made eye contact. I nodded, he nodded back and all was right and cool with the world. Then I told him to go for it. Which I'm assuming he took to heart because for one whole minute Astana had the fastest time on the day. Then BMC came racing in to take it.
Also, this was a minute that I was stoked for one of my favorite former Cyclocrosser racers. I love when Boom wins (last year) or Stybar (this year) or whatever. However, Boom didn't make it that much further and didn't start on the 10th day and now he's done. I'm relatively certain it had nothing to do with the fact that his cortisol levels were low before the start. Oops.
From the start paddock we walked out into the crowds of France to check out the action from a street level view. My impression, from watching these things from the TV, is that it was going to be impossibly hard to see anything from the ground level. Well, for those of you following along at home thinking "I'm never going to the Tour, because you won't be able to see anything anyway." You are wrong. We casually walked along the course, and then when the 5 minute mark hit, we turned our faces to the course, leaned over the tape and yelled like hell while another team came roaring past. As easy as that.
From there it was a mad scramble back to our car to get the heck out of dodge and to the beach. We spent the next couple hours driving with the race caravan which proved to be interesting in and of itself. If you were wondering what it was like to drive down the highway behind a dangerously billowing Mickey Mouse or oversized tube of toothpaste, it's a little nerve racking and funny at the same time.