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By Rupert Guinness, Special to VeloNews
The disappearance of Lance Armstrong’s Discovery Channel team in today’s eighth stage from Pforzheim to Gérardmer was main topic of discussion of the Tour this evening.
One of his key teammates, two-time Giro d’Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli, finished the day in 68th place at 2:57. Not exactly what might have been expected.
An interview with Savoldelli, who was recruited to be one of Armstrong’s principal support men in the mountains of the Vosges, Alps and Pyrénées, was published in Saturday’s edition of the French sports daily L`Equipe.
Of particular interest were Savoldelli’s comments regarding a pre-season training accident in which he collided with a motorbike and could have been killed.
Question: Like Armstrong you have escaped death…
Answer: I came very close to it, very close. If my vertebrae were cracked in the middle rather than at the end I would have been paralyzed. In the accident I got the helmet right in the face. The guy was riding at more than 100kmh.
(Once in the hospital,) I had to stay awake for eight days. I was disfigured. Those who came to see me in my hospital room would go back out thinking that they had got the wrong room. Even my wife didn’t recognize me. Today whenever I hear a motorbike behind me I start to shake. I have become so sensitive to it that when I got back on the road and then broke my collarbone (in Discovery’s California training camp), I cried.
The city of gold
Heads were down and backsides were up on the start line of today’s eighth stage at Pforzheim this morning – and accredited passers by warned vociferously by Tour officials not to walk on it at all.
A close look revealed the city was celebrating it being host to the start by plastering a broad swatch of gold tape to serve as the official start line. Only after we’d left town this morning did we find out that it was real gold, for Pforzheim is, in fact, known as “The City of Gold.”
Here’s a first …(we think)
Amidst the mountain of results and media releases handed out every day in the Tour de France press room, one unique statistic nearly went unnoticed after today’s eighth stage to Gérardmer.
Placed last from 90 riders in the green jerseys points competition isAustralian Tour rookie Simon Gerrans (AG2R) – but at minus five points!
This is a first according to VeloNews editorial director John Wilcockson, who is covering is 37th Tour. Wilcockson says he has never heard of a rider who is yet to win a bonus point ever being positioned in the competition with minus points.
Gerrans could not be contacted for comment on just what it is he did to earn this Tour first – nor had any communiqué been released to explain it.
Polylingualism and the new world order…
The Tour de France’s brief passage into Germany left a lot of confused minds.
While the race was in Germany for only 24 hours, that was enough to hear and see some extraordinary lingual exchanges.
There were Germans who couldn’t speak French, speaking to the French inEnglish. And then there were the French who normally refuse to speak English but definitely can’t speak German, suddenly conversing in English because now they had to.
And of course came the English speakers from as far as the US, Australia, and Britain, who can speak French but not German, suddenly translating broken English from Germans back into broken French for the French – and visa versa.
No wonder I had a headache as we drove the course back into France – but not before one final multi-cultural scenario that strained the brain a little bit too far.
Stopping at a roadside restaurant for a drink in the town of Offenberg86kminto the 228.5km stage from Pforzheim to Gérardmer, it dawned on me what it was.
Here we were – John Wilcockson, Andy Hood and me (an England-born U.S. resident, an American who lives in Spain and me, an Aussie) – sitting inside a Greek restaurant run by German Greeks in Germany, watching the Tour de France.
Oy… my head hurts, mate.