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By Zack Vestal
The 2009 Tour de France begins Saturday, but by Thursday the giant show had already overwhelmed the small streets surrounding Monaco’s Port Hercule.
Spectacular yachts and sailboats pack the docks in the port, and now, a row of trucks and buses belonging to the 20 teams contesting the Tour can be counted in the mix.
The setting is nothing short of stunning, both in terms of the scenery and the barely controlled chaos. The principality of Monaco seems barely big enough to accommodate its 33,000 residents, let alone the swarm that is the Tour de France. Streets are impossibly narrow, so the popular methods of transportation are motor scooters, two-seater cars and motorcycles. For most, driving is all but impossible, forcing long marches between accommodations, the pressroom and team paddocks.
Fortunately, in anticipation of Saturday’s time trial team trucks and buses have already staked out spots on the west quay of Port Hercule. We spent some time Thursday morning visiting as many teams as we could, trying to spy the special parts, prototypes, and custom graphics typically reserved for the biggest bicycle race in the world.