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By Rupert Guinness, Of The Australian
If there is one day on the Tour de France when you wish you were a rider, it’s a day like this Tuesday. Officially it is a rest day. In reality, it is anything but, unless you are a rider who is whisked from one region to another in the luxury of a jet plane — or a reporter who manages to talk their way on to one of the two Tour charter flights.
Tuesday’s transfer was from Brittany to Bordeaux. The riders? They flew out from Lorient during the morning in, one plane leaving at 9.50 a.m., the other at 10 a.m.
Our transfer began some 10 hours earlier, the night before, as we left Lorient for Nantes to get a 150km jump on the “pack” of some 350 media cars. It was a jump that nearly saw us trip! Really, we should have known.
It began as a near-doomed adventure. We were lucky simply to get to our Nantes hotel as our gas tank ran on empty for the last 60km!
The few hours’ sleep after arriving at Nantes at 1.30 a.m. failed to pre-empt any good fortune. By the time we resumed the trip, we knew that the riders and subjects of our stories every day were already in Bordeaux at their hotels for a day when they can do as they please.
Ironically, most riders do anything but rest. They were in their team gear and on their bikes riding during the afternoon. Most went out for two hours, some for four. But all agree that a total rest by not riding would only break the physiological rhythm and balance created by racing for 10 consecutive days.
As we rolled down the autoroute at between 140 and 170 kph, it was hard not to look up to the skies and wonder in envy if the peloton was flying above, rather than in front of us at 40-plus kph.
It may be hard to sympathize with our little beef, especially if you are one of those who has never seen the Tour and dream of one day coming it. But halfway into a Tour the little things do test one’s patience. On the transfer day they do that little bit more, such as when….
You know, no matter whatever plan is made, you still end up arriving at the pressroom later than had there been a stage to write about. Even if you do get a bit of spare time to write on your laptop in the car (as I am doing now), chances are that somehow the batteries will run out (as they are about to here).
Upon arrival, you discover that press conferences scheduled have either been re-scheduled or cancelled because no media attended (because they are still on the road).
Another frustration is that time lost transferring is time lost to wash enough clothes to last the next few days – especially the items that you’ve already had to wear three times!
As for suggestions that the day should give a little respite to catch up on loose ends such as letters home or a little `R and R’ to escape the race, forget about it.
VeloNews Euro’ correspondent Andy Hood may have just started writing postcards in the car next to me, but what he doesn’t know is that a few kilometers down the road Bordeaux and the press room awaits.
It’s 2.30 p.m. We have arrived in Bordeaux. We have rejoined the Tour, just as we thought we might escape it.
Guess Andy will have to put those cards down for another day … perhaps until the rest day next week? I think not….
What’s that? There’s no food at the pressroom? There are no shops in sight? Not a baguette, not one morsel to eat? The pressroom is kilometers away from town and we haven’t had a bite to eat since 7 a.m….
Transfer days. The riders can keep them. Then again, I guess Lance and the gang won’t be savoring a glass (or two) of Bordeaux tonight.