Tuesday, July 27, 2010

East meets west at Singapore

It's a cliche opening line but it's true. For Team BMC's first stop over in Singapore, it's a hot humid melting pot of ethnicity.

Jac arrived into Singapore carrying the airsickness bag as a preventative measure. Something wasn't agreeing with her.

Team JMC are camped not far from Orchard Road - the shopping strip in town and Singapore boy to these guys know how to shop! There are shops everywhere. With the check in not available until 1pm it was time to head out for some practice for the local custom via the Bottanical Gardens.

The shops here range from Louis Vutton to Marks and Spencer (UK Dept Store) to Cartier.Unfortunately for Jac it was only window shopping. But with the Aussie dollar doing well and many sales, there were certainly plenty of bargins around - even Mark went shopping which was accredited as a fine performance considering the the humidity and the fatigue.

By early mid day lunch Jac was getting hungry and wanted something basic. Beef and noodles looked quite bland in the picture. But Jac got a little too adventurious and order the mixed beef noodle. Freshly cooked, they came out with some strange shapes - a ball that wasn't a mince ball and strips of something that looked like villi on one side. Not good for the stomach.

After checking in, we headed out again for a self guided tour which included the fire station, parliament house, arts centre, new and old high courts and Raffles.

High tea was over, it was too early for the Tiffin so it was off to the famous Long Bar for an Singapore Sling. But at the obnoxious price of S$25 it was only the free peanut to be enjoyed. Oh well - Jac had east v west on the plane with a Singapore Sling and Red Wine - maybe that's what started her stomach bug.

Jac and Mark wandered along to the river and tired of french and asia food we went to a Western bar that did a steak burger and fries.

So we wait for the return back to Australia. It's unlikely to involve as much star spotting or gossip as we had on the way over courtesy of David Pell (Sky and Millar most underperformed and overpaid team on the tour; Vuelta to be shown on SBS on the weekends; Scott Sunderland returning home to Australia; UCI response understandable over the Renshaw incident). At least there are some good inflight movies.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We headed to the Louvreto wander to the Champs as Mark has nick named it (pronounce Champs as in champion). After Jac quickly directed him in the

right direction, they made their way through the Tuilleries Gardens to the Place De la Concorde. After the 50km warm up ride there was going to be a 60 km

Crit around the Champs-Elysee, past the place de la Concorde and the Louvre with a sprint to watch the final stage.

However, as a mater of urgency, Jac needed a bathroom pit stop. Yep - there were toiletts close to the gardens where we met Kylie and Mark on the First

day. On the Champs-Elysee. At the park opposite the finish line. At the park where you need to pay 500E for a ticket. At the park which requires bird cage

access.This town was in lockdown and each corner had dejected people passing back through it.

After passing the boutiques of Pierre Cardin, Hetrmes, Bvlgari, Jac and Mark shared a boutique Coffee at a boutique price to access a toilet. Ahhh the relief it

bought. The coffee was a brief distraction and after it cooled, we were on the road again to secure our place overlooking the place de la concorde.

Clode to mid day we found our seats - free of charge. Courtesy of the good people of Paris the metal chairs that are used to watch the grass grow or the

water bubble from the fountain in the gardens were now supporting our derieres. To our right was the spanish flag and to our left were the Australians from

Yarra Junctiion.

Trevor and Dave from Ballarat joined Team JMC. They'd been on the cycling tour in the pyrenees and had ridden the Champs-Elysee that morning.
The little kids race providing us with entertainment. Swapping riding stories, and the big screen ahead of us provoding ride updates.

The peleton was in party mode and warmiing up. But still under race control from the Depart, we watched the free publicity unfold. It appears that

Radioshack had swapped Jerseys and were asked by ASO to return to their initial colours. Lance did not looked impressed - the alternate Jersey heaily

promoted Radioshack. The peleton was stopped and they were pictured swapping jerseys and numbers. Then almost in protest, Lance was riding without

race numbers. Not long after, ASO must have stepped in and stopped Lance for he then had is numbers flapping around in the breeze in a flippant sign of

conformaity to the rules of the ASO. Jac and Mark learned later they had signed in dressed in their correct garb.

So we sat and watched. not long after the peleton's arrival, the attack occurred with 11 in the race. The gap went out to 25 -30 s to the peleton. Then their

time was up. HTC train was chuffing along. We could watch it unfold on the big screen.

The Americans to the right had fallen asleep. The warm sun, wine and beer had worked their magic. They were also disappointed when Jac and Mark

advised that while their was a win available for the stage, the grand race. So much for their plans for barracking for the cyclist from Luxembourg - what's his

name again?

The peleton started to pick up the pace again and with 3 laps to go, the action started to happen. The break away was caught on the last last lap and

another exciting finish was ahead of us. The train of HTC had been disrupted and just like the finish in Bordeaucx, Cav was going to have to use someone

else to deliver him to the line. The Mannx Cat pounced on Petacchi's wheel then lept forward. The 25 yr old had plenty of space as his crossed the line.

The polite French crowd clapped. The Schleck supporters yelled Allez Andy and the Spaindards cheered Contador as he crossed the line.

Just before they headed for home an Australian tourist stoped jac who still had the Australian Flag drapped over her. Was there a cycling race on today? Has it finished? Where are the presentations? Who won?

Nice lady - but for the next 24 hrs - please don't admit you're Australian.

And so Contador clinched his 3rd Tour title and Team JMC folded up the EMCC jersey. But of more important things.... the headlines on CNN not CNNN
report "Leaders debate bumped off TV cook off"So who did win Master chef??

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Paris People

As Mark says... It's not about the sites you see, it's about the people you meet.

Today was another one of those days where the people made the day.

We've ticked off a few sights today - Catachombes, tower Montparnasse, shopping in the Markets featured in Masterchef episode in Paris, Lunch on the

lawns of the , a guided tour of the Paris Opera house or the Palais Garnier, TV in the motel room for the tour, the Luxemberg gardens and finally the

Panethon in the Latin Quarter.

It started with the dodgey looking European men, wearing soccer Jerseys, working for the local French Governement, guarding the opening of the

Catachecombes. It was like lining up for a night club and if you knew the bouncer you'd have a better chance of getting in. They even had the pull across

rope that they used to indicate if you were the lucky 6 that they were allowing in.

Then like, it was, like the American girls, like, lining up behind me to get into the Catechombes. There was a group from like, Michigan State studying biology

(not sure why the had to visit Musee D'Orsay or the Effile Tower then) and then was the girl from New York like who was an actor. Not studying acting, an

Actor. My mum said if you can't say anthing nice, you shouldn't say it at all. So i didn't tell her that because she was obese, she would find it hard to get work.

Nonetheless, in true American style, she was boasting about her photo shoot that afternoon. Only hope the lense was wide enough.

We could talk about the chunky itialian stallion at the Resturant for dinner, who was struting his stuff, sweating, moving quick, brushing up against the ladies.

Did we mention his specific odour l'homme?? Or the poor service we received from like resturant when they mistook us for Americans. Having to ask for

bread in a French resturant is a crime.

There is the Russian born receptionist in the hotel who flirts with Jac as he thinks he has something to offer - alothough Mark stands at her side and she has

explained he proposed on the Col du Tourmalet. Although he encourages her to speak French.

The highlight of the day was Fabienne - feminine Fabienne, The tall blonde frenchman, with the hip wiggle who either had his eyelashes tinted or wore

eyeliner. He wore the summer weight linen pants and shirt with loafers and was our Tour Guide for the L'opera or the Palais Garnier. As he told us Palais

Garnier. Was he thrown . He obviously felt that we weren't intelligent enough to share his passion for L'Opera and the Ballet and he was living his penance

taking English speaking tourists through his beloved Palais Garnier

He told us very important facts about Palais Garnier - the stage was 60 m heigh - not 16, 6 - 0 high. You are not allowed to use your flash down stairs but I

will tell you again when we get there. Some say the Foyer is like the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles (Jac did) but I do not - the Hall of mirrors is made of Marble,

there are 17 windows and mirrors. There are not that many mirrors here. the walls are made of plaster. In the renovations we did 6 years ago we replaced

the curtains, not with silk but with synthetic silk. The only way you would know would be to touch them but you will never know because you are not allowed


And so the tour went on. Mark and Jac had little pokes and digs at each other regularly as the tour progressed waiting for the next funny saying, action from

our dear Fabienne.

But alors, Fabienne could not keep our attention. We were intereted in the other Fabian - of Cancellara Saxobank Fame. The world champion. Jac and

Mark descended the marble stairs of the auditorium, weaved their way throught the labyrinth of the Opera's boutique and library and high tailed it back to the

motel for a guided tour in English of Le Tour. On the little flat screen.

At one point Schlek was within 2 s of the GC. O'Grady and Lancaster both had ridden well. Contador was riding into the race while Schlek was putting in

every once of energy he had. Did he fade or did Contador ride into it? The race between Contador and Schlek has been the highlight for the tour. Schlek

was giving it all and regardless could walk away knowing he put in everything (damn chain). It was emotional to watch Contador with the relief as he

donned the yellow jersey.

So as we sign off, tonight we'll sleep much better. We found the remote for the air conditioner which means we won't be joining the party in the street through

the open windows.

Tomorrow is the pompour of the Champs, more people watching and the final stage for le Tour and Team JMC.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kicked out - no more space for the tour de france.

Where are we now? Back in the captial of romance - Paris. Team JMC are reaching the end of their Tour De France. We only have to keep the pride in the Australian Flag for the next few days.

So with another couple of days away from Wifi access (it's wee-fee here not wy-fy) we're writing the next blog from a Laundromatt in the opera district of Parisl. It would be a great idea to have wifi here but we can post later.

We last left our journey writings North of Orleans on a village parking spot. We were heading for Paris on our second last stage of the driving holiday. For all the driving he'd successfully completed, Mark was looking forward to handing the keys back to Avis.

We set Tom Tom for Versailles - potentially three camping grounds within Km's of the Palace, close to the drop off depot and close to bars so we can

So as the saying goes something about the best laid plans being set aside... Two camping places became one when we realised they had changed names. All the while Mark performing docey does with little European cars in the narrow streets. After a telephone call, we headed back to the Palace and onto the Gardens and voila - a dodgey space of grass out the back of local bus depot a short walk from the Verailles Palace Gardens.

After a wait in the queues we headed for the beautiful sardine tin - so many people!! Breath taking was the Verailles Palace Hall of Mirrors, the gardens and the painting on the ceilings of the grand apartments. Did we mention the Chapel - covering two stories.

Just as important as the palace was the palace to watch the TV. It was the tourmalet - the grand tourmalet.

After checking out a few bars, we found a resturant/bar with a large TV. In kindess we ordered drinks, then chips then coffee. We were about to order more drinks when the TV was switched off. We weren't welcomed. The hint came earlier when the wanna be m'aitre de stoped serving us and sent the kitchen hand/bar man for our service. They were about to hit the Col du Solour. This mean that after a short descent they'd be starting the tourmalet. Sastre was in no mans land and there was a small echappee which included Burghardt, Flecha, Hagen.

As the cliche went = we walked this way and we walked that way. No bars with TV's!! Argghh. Jac sent team JMC down to a street and Voila a bar more than a resturant. A big TV people drinking not eating. ESPN which could mean english subtitles.

A few orders and Jac's broken French had ensured the TV channels weren't getting changed back. What team do you go for. Do you think Contador or Schlek will win the stage?

Saxo were in control - Stuey first, then contador had his turn at the front. Eventually it was just Schlek. At the same time Vino had dropped off for Astana. 10 kms from the top Schlek went on the attack and Contador followed. The race the organisers were looking for was on. The barman paused every time he was to pour a drink to watch.

At the 3 km mark, Contador attacked and Schlek responded. What was going to happen. Was Schlek going to attack or just set the pace. Could he step it up again. They were both hurting. Do you trust Contador to allow the now deserved win to go to Schlek?

And so it finished up - Schleck went across the line first in the fog that had descended the Pyrenees the days before. Contador retained the yellow. Rodriguez had limited his losses and Robbie eventually made it across the line and celebrated by crossing on one wheel.

The grand tourmalet.

On the road again... just can't wait to get back on the road again

So where are we - we're not really sure. North East of Orleans near a forest and a road.

As like the second half of yesterday, today has been about travel. Pluis - wet weather makes it or more the better for travelling when it's not much fun looking at things.

Additionally, today is a rest day for the tour. Just like the cyclists, directors, organisation, press the followers too need a rest day. Whether it's for travel, fitting in that longer ride for those who can squeeze it in.

For Team JMC it was a bit of reality bites - heading back to Paris to the end of the tour. It also changed our pespective on France. We were now tourists per say. Not sports fanatics fitting in a holiday.

So accordingly we behaved like tourists. We stopped off at the Cahors markets early in the morning to beat the peak hour rush in our gigantic car. The thunderstorm through the night had cooled the hot limestone cliffs which surrounded us. It was still close to 28 C at 11 pm and we were cursing the spainards who were up late partying.

Fortunately France hasn't fully embraced the McDonalds breakfast cuture - really Maccas has nothing in it's arsenal to defeat France. The french invented crepes - the boulangeries are open from 6.30, it's easy to get a coffee and the french have crepes. While Macca's was closed on the edge of Cahors, their WIFI was going strong in the carpark and subsequently a great spot to enjoy our breakfast.

Cadel's diary brought a smile to the face - his most recent upload included the aussie flags which were flying in the pyrenees - and that meant us!! Yell for Cadel was our motto.

We travelled North sopping at a cute town just south of Limoges with quintessential Limousine architechture- mini turrets on houses, lunch was somewhere and arrived at Chambourd Chateau in the Loire Valley at 1500hrs - exactly as Jac had estimated.

Quick history lesson- built by Louis 1st and is a 2 day trip in horse and carriage from Paris.Took many years to build as Louis kept changing his mind. There is a huge hunting ground surrounding it and is the official hunting ground of the French president. It is symmetrical and has enormous Greek architechural influences. Louis 14th and Marie Antoinette were dragged from before their heads were chopped off.

Not only is it pretty, it's the first flat part of France Jac and Mark have come across. It's a bit like Echuca just greener and with Villages closer together! It's perfect riding for Mark to return to next time we come back.

But alors - Mark was determined to head closer to Paris and by doing so Jac waved good bye to the last chance to ride in the land of frogs legs and snails. However by leaving the Loire, Team JMC discovered they were leaving the nooks and crannies of the forests - perfect for hiding a 3 m high campervan for open paddocks - not so good for free accommodation for the night. With a little back tracking we found the forest, checked out a few nooks, found a cranny and settled in for the night. Well that's what we thought. We could hear the hunting happening in the forest. We had a visitor pull in who needed to use the naturale toilet that was supposed to be hiding us. Then either side of dinner, two semi trailers had pulled up. What had we occupied? Was this the drug exchange spot? There were no shoes hanging over power lines in cooee of us! Then with our light fading, we let our imaginations run - what if a tree fell on us? Could we get shot? Do they hunt at night here in France? We jumped in the white beast and headed to the nearest Village, pulled up in the car park pulled up the blinds and closed the day on another chapter.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Tourmalet - The grand Tourmalet

A quick post - we're sitting in an English Pub in Cahors on our way back to Paris.

Over the last two days we've seen our last few stages in the Pyrenees.On the 19th we were on the top of the Portet D'Aspet (Jac road both sides with 17% ptiches) Cheered on the Aussies particularly as Luke Roberts from Milram was in the echappee. Kept an eye out for Robbie and Cadel.

Jac has ridden the Tourmalet and we've partied and watched the tour come through St Marie de Campan - between the Col D'Aspin and the Tourmalet. We saw Robbie at the back of the peleton and cheered him through. We were cm's away from the cyclists and cars as they went around the corner. We've been kicked off tables in bars to allow mum and mum to have the prime posistion for the caravane.

We're heading for Paris - via the Loire Valley and Verseilles.

Keep in touch and hope Silverfox is on the mend.

The proposal

As you can see, we're a little behing on our blogging. We've spent the last few days in the beautiful pyrenees. It's now Tuesday and we haven't written since Saturday evening.

Sunday we awoke to an overcast sky - again for the pyrnees. We took a gamble a headed for the Col du Tourmalet. Matt and Karen before our departure had said there are two valleys to the Tourmalet- one more beautiful than the other. Mark unable to ride, was determined to get a look at it. The participation ride - mondo velo was to close the roads to the top later that day.

As we ascended, we quickly worked out where we were - the beautiful side - steep drops, fresh Icy cold mountain water below us, big green trees. It was still overcast as we headed to the top and then the clouds broke and we popped up above the cloud line that had covered the valley for the last few days.

The motor homes had already settled in the available carparks - this was Sunday 18th and the tour wasn't due through until - 20th. There were little mobile home cities and not much space for another. The car parks were full!!

The intent was to have breakfast at the top of the Col, however we pulled up close to the top with space as a premium. For breakfast but Mark had other plans...

He pulled out the pink champagne bottle and Jac thought we were having a champagne breakfast with the collection of croissants.

It was pretty simple after that - he popped the cork, we went outside to have a toast to our trip and on one knew he said - "I suppose I should ask you... will you marry me?"

Standing on the edge of the no standing Zone above the valley and a sheer drop below, Jac had no other option than to say yes.

Worried about the gendarmes and getting caught on closed roads, we hurriedly jumped back in the camping car, crossed the Col, were amazed at the traffic ascending and had breakfast with champagne as we were safely down the mountain.

As for the remainder of the day- we spent the afternoon watching most of the tour in a lovely bar in Aspet - 12 km from the base of the Portet D'Aspet, ascended the Portet D'Aspet, payed hommage to Fabian Casartelli who died tragically 15 years to the day and then joined our friends we met at the Avis in Paris in a campsite on the top of the Portet D'Aspet.

A lovely day, great views, great company and a great holiday. What more can one ask for??

Holy water and rainy water

the beautiful pyrenees.

Our ascent into the pyrnees has brought the cold weather and fog. It's been a shock to system following days and days of warm weather. Has the cooler weather brought relief? not really. the clouds are down to 1400m and when you're here to ride the cols and climbs of the department, the views you hope for are now gobbled up. for the seasoned cyclists fog brings not only damp roads making a descent more percarious, it also affect visibility and when there is an increasing influx of tourists ahead of the week's climbing to celebrate 100 years in the pyrenees, even more dangerous.

the day started rather slowly and took a few hours of deliberation for work through our appraoch for the day. The previous day's travel had taken the tool and Mark was performing well as the "little shit" and Jac may as well had PMT. To make make matters worse, Jac mixed up her transaltion when trying to read the bus time table to Lourdes. We split for the remainder of the day - Mark to Lourdes a la pied and Jac to the Cols a la velo.

Mark came back from Lourdes not with his gammy shoulder fixed but amazement. A combination of naffness and hope. A wheel chair repair man would get a great job. There were people heading into the Grotto where St Bernadette saw the visions of the Virgin Mary. There were people collecting water by the gallon loads. There was also an area where people could bathe. the bathers weren't wearing the itty bitty polka dot bikini. They were in hospital beds, whell chairs and assisted by their carers. There were thousdands of shops selling religious items based on the visions and St Bernadette. But for all the commercialism and naffness that existed in Lourdes, it was clear the connection amongst the pilgrims people was their hope and faith.

More interested in shopping, Jac diligently headed up to the Col d'Aubisque. This was to be a two for one deal with the bonus Col du Soulor along the way. While the temperature was lower, the humidity was still high. Jac passed through lovely townsand admired the misty (que) beauty of the mountains. However 4 km from the top, there wasn't much to see and it was more a matter of keeping to the right and keeping dry. With the Col du Soulor passed twice this year, the fanatics were already camped out along the route. Added to the challenge were the donkeys and cows wandering the roads and Jac's time in the yards at Glenruben got the cows going. Col d'Aubisque would have to be for another year. And so after a warm cup of terrible french coffee and a hot but tacky Croque Monsiuer washed down with a visit to the pattisserie, it was off to Hautacam for the consellation prize. The climb offered views of the Valley and a friend to accompany and lead Jac through the last 2 km. Not a fellow rider but a dog up there to look after the heard.

As we close out for another day on the Team JMC tour of france, the evening has embrassed weary legs, cheap alcohol and people watching as we drank and eat our way through the Pyrenees,.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The transition from the Alpes to the Pyrenees via Mont Ventoux

It's very early Friday morning as we write. The sun is coming up over the mederterrrainian sea - well over the large Herualt oyster lagoon sout west of

Montpeillier. The last few days have been a mix of sight seeing and heading down to the pyrenees.

Just as the tour de France started to make it's transition from the Alpes to the Pyreenees, we also said Au Revior to the beautiful French Alpes. Las time we

wrote we were waiting for the tour at a sprint point at the side of the road 19 km out from Chambery.

A lovely Britt who was out for a morning ride had pulled up to enquire as to how Cadel was going. The rumours from the day before was that he had

fractured his arm. We couldn't get the translation right, but his enquiry had confirmed it. Lost for great British cyclists, he'd been following the Aussies on the

tour for the last few years and had also been out to tour down under and was a huge fan of Stuart O'Grady and saxobank (or is that Sansobank). He also

suggested that we weren't too far from Mont Ventoux for our next stay and after some quick suggestions we had a little plan.

After lunch, the spectacle that is the tour quickly conitnued. At the sprint marker, we saw the brief tussle amongst Pettachi, Husovd and our Robbie and then

the peleton roll through. Cadel was back in the world championship jersey and at the back of the peleton. As in previous occaisions, just as the spectators

had arrived slowly, they rapidly disppeared. Camping only a few km's from the motorway it wasn't long before we were heading to Mont Ventoux.

Again, Mark did a sterling effort driving the car through the narrow winding roads. We made our way down through the Alpes Valleys with some most

spectactular views! We couldn't capture it on our little digital camera but nor could we find a place to stop - In Australia, with views like this there would be little

look out points available for you to stop and admire the view. Oh well... it's certainly etched in our memory.

The tour cars were whizzing past us, taking the alternate route to Gap or Sisteron. We had funny little stops - Jac dislikes the cheap toilets where you have to

back up, put your feet on the feet plate, and squat over the ceramic plate below - however the bar in the middle of the north Provence valley in a small

country town was lovely. Jac had walked in with her HTC jersey on and they immediately wanted to know that was my team. They like us were cycling fans

and after clarifying we weren't Americans, we were welcomed with a seat to watch the big screen TV for the tour, an icy cold orgagina (we need this drink in

Australia) they loved Pineu and Chavenel. We also knew it was hot wen the locals said it was hot. There was a breakaway that had 11 mins on the peleton

and looked as though it was to stay away.

Arriving in Vaison sur romaine - we quickly realised this place was popular amongst the tourists. The camping grounds were full and after finding an

average one that we eventually sought a refund on because we couldn't fit the campervan in, we headed for the campervan carpark 100 m from town.

Looking for a place to eat we wandered throught he busy streets - it was bastille day - we'll tell you about the terrible meal we had when we return - we

climbed the oldruins, watched the sun set, the fire works and headed to our car park home.

We awoke early to head to the Malachene at the base of Mont Ventoux, breakfast, a change annd Mark was heading off to the top and Jac behind. Jac

quickly rounded up the cyclists.Ventoux is magnificent. Beautiful views, vegetaion, quickly wide roads. In the last 2 km there were some 15% gradient parts,

but by this time as Jac had passed the flying dutchman who'd passed her earlier, the 15% felt like 7%.

At the top we found our Bega cycling friends and the other aussies we saw in a campervan on Col de Madeline. If I ever go to Bega, I know who I'll be

cycling with. Mark was up there too with the camera and watching the cyclists come in. There was even a runner!!

Jac descended behind Mark and watched the cars trying to whiz and squeeze past him with impatience. We headed onto Carpentras for food and fuel - but

the one way streets prohibited us getting to a large supermarket - we eventually found a no names brand. The next town on we tried for fuel, however the

pumps didn't accept our cards. We headed to Avignon and eventually found a total that was open and had service (it was now lunchtime with many places

shut). The plan at Avignon was to have lunch at the famous Pont du Avignon. Not to bee, again another tourist mecca so we headed back to McDonalds

and headed inside fro free Wifi and a reasonable french cappuchino - yep the Italians are much better at coffee than the french.

Which then means we are here south west of Montpellier in the Hinualt lagoon and Bouziers. Our seaside stop over where you can see the oyster and

muscle beds from the shoreline. The people managing the campground are lovely and helpful. free washing machine, free wifi access, organised boules

competitions good amenties block. We watched the last 20 km of the stage with Renshaw and Tyler Farrar head butting close the the finish. In a bar, drinking

orangina over looking the marina. Ahhh this is the good life.

L'alpe d'huez, col de madeline, col du glandon, col de croix de fer

We're sitting at the side of the road on bastille day, 200m from the first sprint points on the stage that is bastille day.

When we load this up onto the blog, it will have been 2-3 days since our last blog and there has been much to do. Jac has ridden the 21 switch backs to l'alpe d'huez. Mark did an amazing job to drive the campervan across the col du Glandon. We've cheered a group of Aussies from Begariding up the Col du Glandon. This is one tough ride due to the steep descent and ascent down and up from a lake in the middle of the climb. Jac then pulled/paced one of the riders from the Col du Glandon to the Col de la Croix Fer and recieved the well deserved ribbing on arrival.

We made our way down the Col du Glandon through an amazing valley and could see the col de Madeleine in front of us. Through La Chambre which was already in party mode at the base of the Col De Madeleine. On the outskirts of the ski village, we found our spot for the next 28 hours. A tent flying the Belgium flag contained some big beer drinking Belgiums. These guys made us feel extremely welcomed in France and helped Mark position the campervan and relax with a well deserved beer.

\While our friends battled the nights thunderstorms and rain, we were concerned with the angle of the campervan affecting our sinking and shower drainage. they had enough beer to keep them warm through the night and we didn't have a care in the world as we were on holiday.

Jac descended the Col de Madeline and climbed back up it with the comfort of a closed road. She passed a group of french cyclists including a lady to whom she called Allez Madame, Allez and then was called a Marmotte - a badger like creature who lives in the mountains. She then passed some itialian men on their bikes and had fun for the last few km's fending off a couple of the attacks.

By the time she'd arrived, Mark had been shopping at the local boulangerie to buy bread and the most beautiful buttery croissants. As we had lunch and as we ate lunch, we had fun watching the spectacle of people making their way through to the top- walkers, cyclists, young, old, fat skinny. French, dutch, danish walk oast the door our our campervan. Not many girls on bikes, but when they were , they were on mountain bikes. We cheered the aussies as we went up

Mark headed up after lunch to find a spot at the top, at which time, Jac would then head on up on the bike. But alors!! The gendarmes closed the road to cyclists 2 hours before the tour was due to arrive. After a quick swap of bike shoes for hiking shoes, Jac headed cross country straight up the side of the mountain in a race to the top to beat the caravane.

Rick gave Jac some advice before leaving - just pinch yourself every now and then so you know it's real. Yesterday she had to. Cadel was in yellow. We would see him on the Col de Madeliene in yellow (pinch number 1). We found our position 50 m from the top - behind the barriers amongst thousands of people (pinch number 2) we put the aussie flag out on the barriers (pinchnumber 3).

Jac sought information about the race - there was a break away, Vino had taken off and was more than 4 mins ahead of the main peleton. Casar was at the head of the course. The saying was true - if you try to speak French with the french, they will welcome you. This lady had a task of updating her husband who was next to us a the barriers and now the information was for Jac also. Where is Cadel, where is the yello jersey? She said he is at the back of the peleton. The genedarme in front of us, who could speak English - jumped at the chance to add in English, 1 hour. He got some boos. Then the lady came back - Vino was not in front. Alberto Contador and Frank Schlek were attacking head to head.

The helicopters came first, then the team cars with people to provide drinks positioned themselves, the cheers and then the cyclists. Casar (FDJ) was in front and while they were lower down in the GC, they weren't going slow. Before they had reached the top, they were in top gear for the descent. We waited - no cadel, Contador and Schlek went through, Lance, minutes passed - the gendarme suggested 1 hour. No BMC riders and then at least 6-7 minute later was a larger group of riders. Cadel was supported but he was down and out. Our hearts sank but we cheered these amazing cyclists and spotted Rogers, Lloyd, Lancaster, Renshaw as they flew over the top.

Afterwards, the spectacle had to descend. Bikes rightly had right of way and started the descent 100's and 100's. We trundled back to the car and then when it was our turn, headed down to find a new campsite for a new day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The aussie bar in le bourg d'ossains

Up until today, it has been about the tour. But today it was about the bike. The passes or Cols. Le boug d'Ossains is a cycling mecca. It is about the bike here. Not only do they have one of the best bike clothing shops (apologies to Ash) I've seen, they are at the base of many of the great climbs - including the famous l'alpe d'huez. Not the highest nor the toughest, but thanks to the heroics of Lance over the last few years, the famous.

Jac was here to make the most of the day. Two Cols in one ride - Col du Laurtaret (2057m) and Col du Galibier 2642. After a lovely 5km the climbing started - and aside from a few down hills. Making her way up the beautiful valley, she went through tunnels with signs requesting cars to be 1.5 m away; passed hydro stations, was cheered as she went through the beautiful village of La grave. As she climbed, the river became a creek and then a stream fed by the melting snows covering the peaks of the alpes. The grand trees gave way to bushes then grassey fields covered in the summer wild flowers. Leo and Joe would appreciate the cows and sheep with bells around their necks. At the top of the passes, there was bareness.

At the Col Du Laurtaret, low on water and out of food, Jac contemplated for a brief second turning around. Only 8 km to go she wasn't coming this far not to get to the top. Steady as she goes, unlike the first 40 km, there was company descending and ascending. The bidons were filled with fresh mineral water from the running streams and with regained confidence up she went. Switch back after switch back. Allez the descending cyclists called - Italians, French, Germans - no Australians and few females. Mc Kewan, Yell for Cadel, Rogers, Sanchez, Go Lance, Voight, Rogers. Alberto Their names, while fading were all written on the roads. Jac couldn't see WOOD - but oh well.

The last pinch was short but a reminder of why this is one of the good ones. But after the photos, there was till more work on the brakes for the descent. 40, 60, 70 km/ph. Back through the cool tunnels. Down to the shade of the trees and the head wind rushing up the valley. Back off the climb and pushing for home. Bonjour Mark - thank god I'm home.

After lunch we headed into town for Coffee (yuck) and coke and a TV. Quickly the Cafe de paris became a little piece of Australia. A tour group from Cronulla had also adopted the bar as their home for their stay here. There was 80 km to go on the tour and the group of 2 made 3, then 4 then 15. They'd returned from Mont de Lans - a brief 30 km ride up. We were waiting for the attack - there was Basso, Menchov, Contador, Schleck Sastre, S. Sanchez.There had been crashes earlier in the stage but there were more, with Lance going down twice in the final 80 km. However as the peleton crossed, 10 s behind Schlekc and Sanchez, there was a huge roar from the pub. Contador looked behind at Cadel - Cadel had taken yellow.

Mark took inspiration from Cadels yellow jersey and headed up L'Alpe D'huez on Jac's bike. For the first 15 mins, Jac kept looking out the window at the sound of a bike. Bu then he was back - there wasn't enough compact in the compact cranks. He'd had his little piece of L'alpe - hair pin number 1. We'll fly Emirates next time and bring his bike.

and as we sign off, all the people in the park are watching the world cup - they're dressed in orange, with red, white and blue smatterings and licence plates with NL. There is the cheer, it sounds as though it's just started....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Who ever said "its not about the bike"

The last two days have been a little quiet. We've been watching the tour like normal people would do and behaviing more like tourists not cycling fans.

After Jac took a climb back upto the Dom Peringnon Abbey, we finally got organised to leave the epernay camping ground. Only to stop off less than a km down the road at the Supermarket.

As Jac went exploring in the supermarket to find terrines and other interesting french food. Mark took guard of the van in the car park. Well sort of guard. We'd had trouble in Epernay getting the cap off the water tank and still hadn't got it off. Mark gathered the little extra self confidence he needed and scouted around the car park for a similar model camping van. He approached a couple s and in his best English with a french accent - Pardon me - do you speak English. This couple looked at him in horror - yes we speak English - we're from Wollongong.So Mark had saved the day - again.

We were heading to the Cote d'Or - the heart of Burgundy - red wines and as far as we could down south in the few hours remaining. Our lunch stop involved a french inland beach. On the shores of a huge lake, Jac found Bronzed french life guards to spice up the view as we lunched on terrine de champagne; perrier and goats cheese.

Jumping back on the motorway was less stressful and fastest way to get down south to the Alpes. We arrived to Beaune to a climate of hot thick air. A queue from the camping ground onto the streets. Alors! the poor ladies were so busy and the office designed for winter not a hot summer. This ground, while not quite picturesque, was very well equipped- internet, good showers, restuarant, bar, bread etc.

We searched out the washing machine - our clothes were calling our names seeking a good wash. So where are these instructions? How much money to you put in, which coin? they don't fit! No instructions. Attempt 1 gave us back our coins. We quickly gave up and went to the bar to savour the flavours of burgundy and down load tour updates. Our savouring of the flavours turned sour quickly with the "Brit in the restuarant with his shirt off and his tits hanging out" .A second win for Cav and a quick hello to some fellow cyclists who have a track pump. Jac lined up for Attempt 2 - The office lady. How many euros does it cost to use the washing machine? 4 Euros Madame. These damn Euros wont fit in the machine.

While waiting for our third attempt, we went exploring exploring Beaune. Lovely place with an old garrison wall around it. Jac thaut the french not only loved their dogs, they also are neat and tidy, except for the Beauneite (again shirt off, tits hanging out) who didn't clean up after his dog. We returned for our third and final attempt - after three failed attempts were were relegating ourselves to hand washing. Jac psyched herself up, consulted the pocket language guide. Excuse me Madame, my pieces of money don't fit in the washing machine... Do you have a token? No!! yes.... success on the third and final attempt - a gold medal to Australia!

Jac awoke early eager for a ride around the Cote D'or and after a few ascents of 12%, headed back to town for breakfast and found a wonderful surprise awaiting -no, it wasn't breakfast nor was it Mark naked on the bed, it was Saturday Market day!! Fresh local produce, terrines, cheeses! Jac had a plan - let's go to the Market instead of the supermarket. Jac had a great time discussing and tasting cheese in French at the fromagerie. The market was a buzz - Great food - bread, cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, terrines. But those pan pipe players - how did they get here so quick from the Queen Vic Markets??

So we arrive in le bourg d'ossains. The heart of the cycling mecca that is the french Alpes. It's like arriving to Bright in the middle of summer. Aside from our two delays around Grenoble - speed restrictions due to the pollution and heavy traffic - our timing was perfect. The camping ground caters for cyclists - there is a HUGE TV and we sat down to watch the last 20 km - Chavenal attacked to regain the yellow jersey - Cadel moved into 2nd on the GC, while Peru who was leading, retained the polka dot jersey. it was a day for quickstep.Who ever said it's not about the bike!

Jac and Mark

Friday, July 9, 2010

A champagne party

Epernay, The home of Dom Perignon, the birthplace of champagne and our home for the next

two nights.

Epernay was the start of the 5th stage, and with a stroll around the town it was easy to

see Epernay was waiting for the tour to arrive. The gardens in the round abouts werre

wfilled with figurines of bikes and cycling.

The lorries were being unpacked ith their goods to set up the tours' birdcage, mounting

yard and start line. The signage was up and the gendarmes were supporting the number

number. A mix of industrial zones, beautiful old villages, luchness of the avenue de


After a brief ride up the hill to discover Hauteville, where Dom Perignon "acceidently"

discovered champagne, Jac returned with breakfast and lunch.

Into town and into the streets already filled with people. Local school groups had taken

the day off, many shops were shut in the morning.

We were here to see the stars of past and present - Hincapie, Millar, Contador, Husvod,

Bogdhart, Lance, Basso; soak up the atmosphere and see a glimpse of the behind the scenes

of the tour.

The tour is not much different to the Melbourne Cup- there is the birdcage where the VIPs

await the departure; the stables and the smaller areas cordoned off with the buses; the

stablehands or soigneurs; the sign in lieu of the weigh in, the race where you can see the

cyclists move from the security of their stables to reality of the race through to the

chief steward or commissaire.

As the buses pulled Australians pulled in to support their own and was a great opportunity

to share travel stories, bike stories, discuss the previous day's stage and the outlook for

today. The caravane went along the Avenue de Champagne and Jac had quickly worked out how

to get the attention of the European male models on the floats, she was also getting better

at taking the mark as the free products were thrown to the crowd.

Jac watched the sign in and cheered the Aussies as they lined up (sshhsh said the french)

"Go shepp boy" for Brett Lancaster, go aussie for Micky Rogers.

Mark took position to enable filming and what a great spot - along the race and the Aussie

contingent was loud. If come to see the stars, then it was see the stars we did - they all

had to go past to get to the starting line- name a cyclists and we would have seen them. A

huge cheer went up for Cadel as he came through. There are some great photos to be shared


Oh and the remainder of the day...wine and drinks in a pub to watch the apres depart; A

tour and tasting at Moet et Chandon (you do pronounce the "t"; an after noon at the pub to

watch the tour, drink beer and champagne, relax in the gardens of the hotel de ville, a

three course dinner at a resturant. A laugh at the aussies who chose their resturant with

logic - we ate here for lunch, so we'll try the one next door for dinner.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Clafourtis; Cancellara, Caravane; Columbia, C'mon Aussie and camping

After awaking next to a farmer's field in Guise, we needed another fix. Were addicted - the rush, excitement, star gazing and the carnival atmosphere were euphoric. Cancellara had taken the yellow jersey again.

The feedstation was to be our viewing point. The plan was the peleton would need to slow down and there would be much going on before and after. Plus plenty of time to get a glimpse of the riders.

It was also the first opportunity to get the bike out. Jac needed to buy a bought a new pump, and tube and so off I went on the ride to the next village to test it out. It wasn'tlong until she raced up the hill past the Britt on the bike and spotted an other aussie caravan flying the green and gold.

But it was on her return, when the fun started. We met again when Mark was talking to the aussies. We headed off and he passed me the key to the caravan in front of some locals. A quick friendly bonjour was exchanged and then Mark called "soigneur" and all the ladies raised their glasses and cheered. They thought he was great!

After lunch, we took our position part way up the hill for the caravane and soon reaped the rewards. Jac drapped in the Australian Flag and Mark with his Richmond jersey, we were doing our contry proud!

I wandered to the top of the hill having a conversation with the locals. Are you Brittish? Non! Are you New Zealand? Non Monsieur - je suis australianne!The European men were in fine form again and quick to have a chat. Moving on however, I found Mark's soigneur ladies and joined their party. Clafouris, wine, bread, photos, singing. Jac was going to have trouble up the hills. Then a mum and son approached her requesting a photo with her son. It was my 5 minutes of fame!!

The team cars started arriving - Garmin, Liquigas, quickstep. Where to stand was based on who we wanted to see, shortly after and with thanks to our new aussie friends, we were now wearing BMC caps - Team JMC, we gathered for photos for pez cycling.com, admiring the oval cranks of Team Sky's Pinarellos. Jac greeted the arrival of the HTC car with a go aussie cheer. Jac asked about Hansen who'd fallen the day before. He was OK and had gone home. But you like cycling? As if to say you are a woman and you are interested in cycling?

The helicopters approached and passed - flys swarming over the top - the breakaway went through. Cadel saw Mark's richmond jersey and smiled. Jac called go Aussie at the HTC car and they cheered "Aussie" back- Mark got a wave from Allan Piper - who'd spotted Mark's jersey. Did you see that - I saw Cadel - I saw Hincapie - the BMC and the Cervelo girls didn't shave their under arms. The liquigas feeder looked like and italian stallion - the team hincapie shorts look great - I'm going to get a pair.

This was awesome. Amazingly after the build up for hours - it was gone in minutes. the team cars were off. the people were dissappearing, the rubbish cleared and the cars disappeared. If it wasn't for the green rubbish bags - you wouldn't have known the tour had been.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The pave of the tour de france

If yesterday was big, then today is bigger. It is tour day. Thank goodness for Wifi and the net book

A speed read of cycling news, a fleeting glance at the sbs highlights and we had enough information that the wet hills of the liege bastonne liege had taken it's toll on the riders.

Tom Tom (thanks again Kylie and Mark) sent us off in the right direction and then with a little exploring (a huh) we found the tour arrows and they sent us down the second last section of cobblestones. The famous cobblestones of the one day classics. They were rough and we even had suspension on four wheels!

We pulled up in a shady position next to some silage bales and took to the feet. There is a real buzz and happiness amongst fellow spectators.But as we quickly discovered, a richmond jersey, an hat with an Australian flag, combined with a HTC jersey was plenty enough to attract much attention.

And talk about star gazing.... initially we were happy to see a fellow aussie, then to get cheers from the Belgique who called "aussie". We quickly worked out their favourite star, Robbie Mckewan had taken a fall and had come down.But then Mark's sharp eyes picked up the van of the famous red devil. the dude who get's dressed up, with the fork, runs onto the road. We went back and asked for an autograph. that was the highlight for the moment.

Up at the corner of the cobblestones, was a bar. the local pub had set up a position near to.

Then we were spotted by some other aussies. A group of four sitting on the side of the road. After a few minutes chatting, we were both starting to piece things together.... Australian Paralympic team, wheel chair, Bathurstites, don't say bad things about Mark Renshaw and we'd come across Mark Renshaw's fiancee and Kurt... one of Australia's most celebrated paralympian. We were stoked!

As the afternoon went on, people continued to stream in onto the pave, the atmosphere continued to build. Each time a car came through with lights, the question was asked, is it the caravan? The procession of sponsors cars that preceeds the peleton would inidcate they are an hour away.

Our position was next to an animated french man, his family and friends. The peleton was on the 5th pave, and Schleck had come down in a crash. The caravan had been and gone, and now we were waiting for the motorbike of the leader. We heard the helicopters at the same time.

There was a break away. We think it's tyler frarar from Garmin slipstream then the chasing echelon of Cancellera, another saxobank rider and our cadel. He was wearing the world championship jersey. Go cadel, go aussie. Mark got pretty close cheering when Cadel went by. That was great!! Cadel was fourth - I told our frenchman. He is Australian!! Allez Cadel! But there was more to come, many more. The peleton had broken up, so for the next few minutes there was a steady stream ofmedia, police, officials, team cars (don't get close) until we saw the last rider at the rear and the sag wagon. Well the tour had arrived!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Off on the adventure and lessons learnt

Yesterday, Monday was a big day for us. A the crack of dawn we were up. Exhausted from the day before, excited as we watched the Parissians go through their normal day through our little window. The street below was already moving with the bakery and greengrocer already receiving visits from people.
The chocolate croissants, coffee were terrible in the hotel. Watery espresso – the same stuff you get a bad training venue. It’s a reminder that the same can occur in Australiua – cities can become so disconnected from the quality and the origins of their food. Yes fast food and bad food does exist in Paris.
But today was not about paris, today was about our adventure, driving, regional france and LE TOUR! I don’t know what the lady thought of Mark – I introduced him as the strong, cold, man who likes beer and si driving while I ride my bike. After the safety and instruction video, the demonstrations we were on the wrong side of the road!
I’m not sure how Mark did it, but we got out of Paris relatively unscathed – a little stressed. We quickly found a new friend – Tom Tom. In Paris, listening to Kylie and Mark we were still confident we’d be fine with the road atlas, it was on their insistence we took it, “just in case”. Three cheers for Tom Tom, Kylie and Mark!
By the time we’d reached Villers Brettenoux, we’d negotiated tollways, truck stops, truck stop toilets, round abouts where you travel anti clockwise, narrow Paris streets, signage that the speed on the A15 slowed down in rain. And the lessons continued, - Lesson 2 – don’t arrive at lunchtime to a small country village- they’re closed for eating.
It’s a lovely way to learn how a gesture of thanks can build friendship. From the Franco Australian Museum located off Rue de Melbourne you can see the playground in Victoria School with the big sign “ Don’t Forget Australia”. A visit to Villers Brettenoux should be on the agenda of every young adult. Take pride in your place, people and country – Ah oui Madame, je suis australienne and Victoria Hall, adjacent to the has more Australian Heritage than most Australian Schools I’ve taught in or visited.
The Australian War Memorial was sombering reminder. Dedicated to the 11, 000 Australians died on the Western Front, it’s located on a hill overlooking the open plains of the Somme.
Travelling along the Somme River, we made our way through Arigcultural towns, slowed down by tractors, wheat wackers at work in the fields, wrong turns, missed signs and another stop to an Australian War Memorial dedicated to 3rd division. The absence of fences on the fields gave us the extra space to manouever the van around.
But it’s the normal things that are exciting on our holidays, going shopping, booking into our accommodation, ordering bread and croissant to arrive at breakfast, buying terrine, looking for sunscreen, cooking lunch, going to the shower block, listening to BBC radio. It’s great, but it’s going to get better – tomorrow is Le Tour.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Newsflash: new Australian terrior declaired between seine and notre dame catherdral.

After surving our journey across the dry australian contry. You will need to wait until tomorrow. We're so tired now that we've stopped I cannot function.

Gee that's a good example of fatigue related error.

Here's the remainder of the post.
It didn’t take long, but we’re going to have to make our claim with the UN. It was the sandpit next to.
Marks’ friend’s Kylie and Mark and their family were in Paris holidaying as well and we’d met them where else but on the Champs – Elysses.A quick note about the Australian boy from Holbrook
Girl from Mooroopna had dialogue that morning with Australian boy from Holbrook. Where are we going to meet them? On the Champs. The where? The Champs (think long Australian drawl pronunciation Champs as in Champion)- where they finish the tour – oh the Champs – Elysse (add Australian attempt of a French accent”
Well we got there. Fancy meeting you here. Cliche. And so our group now with three delightful children, were there to be seen on the Champs – Citron and Peugot concept stores, Ice creams, aftershave stores, a queue outside of the Louis Vuitton store. To the L’Arc de Triomphe. To the Metro and Notre Dame. And while we took solitude in Notre Dame (mass was on). Our little travelling companions found the sand pit. And it wasn’t long until they had put the Australian Flag up. There’s not much space in Paris so you can see the children playing in a small area. Not our Australians – running from end to end, having time out for throwing sand, knocking down sand castles, catching them before they knock down sand castles, sharing the buckets and shovels from unassuming polite Parisians. It was magic to watch and innate sense of culture being played out in the sand pit. Bloody australians

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mike and Phil vs Ron Reed - not a match worth watching

Herald Sun, Seven News don's stand a chance in attracting the ever growing interest in cycling, if they keep up their dismal performances that were on show to unassuming public..

The day before the odysee that is the tour, our mainstream Australian journalism continue to throw factual inaccuracies and poor reporting to the unbeknowing public.

Today the Herald Sun reported who the best riders are for the teams. Phillip Gilbert? (Omega Pharma - Lotto) Tom Bonnen (Quickstep)? They're not on the stage in Amesterdam.

However the heart break is the dearth of coverage of our own athletes. The tour news was Chanel 7's report on Lance's announcement that this will be his last tour. Who cares when Australia is boasting a record of 11 cyclists in the Tour de France and Cadel is still a contender for a podium finish. This is on top of Stuart O'Grady's report that this will be his last, Sulzberger's debut, Mark Renshaw's role as lead out mann for the Mannix cat; Robbie McKewan's return from injury. Simon Gerrans return after heartbreak last year and that's only the riders without mention of the Australian directors sportif...Each has their own incredible story.

Any while I'm on my soap box, one of the most frustrating reports I've read is "Cadel doesn't have a team - just look at BMC's performance at the Giro." Commentry with blinkers. Cadel's team was at half strength - injury and the competing Tour of California. No, it wasn't poor reporting, it's the media living upto their reputation of tall poppy syndrome.

And commentry that one of our superstars who shone earlier in the year in the Giro, Richie Porte has "missed" selection for the tour shows the lack of understanding of the demands this sports has on it's athletes. Regardless of his promise, it's inconcievable to have him back up to the le tour following the Giro.

A sigh of relief washed over me when I heard Mike Tomalaris' report on SBS news. Accurate, interesting and a wellcoming balance which included the cloud of controversy that is the tour with information on our own stars.

How will the infamous L'equipe and l'auto stack up?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blood sweat and gears

The countdown is no longer months, weeks or days. Its hours.

I'm dancing around the house. One more ride on the trusty cold flats of Echuca. One more day of work before a few weeks off. One more morning of near zero temperatures before some lovely warm weather.

I'm already eating and drinking french. Today I slotted in 2 cafe au lait and a visit to le boulangeri (m or f?) - Degani - that even sounds french isn't it?

It's not just the caffiene...my excitement is building.

The phone ran hot tonight - one of the unexpected joys of Marks large family... " we might do something romantic like hold hands under the Eiffel tower"

I've written in rusty french an email to confirm accommodation and now I have one back....more dancing. I'm not 32 I'm a five (3+2) year old child counting down to christmas -

And now..SBS have a feature documentry on Garmin-Chipolte.

Vive le francais!!