14 March 2009

Paris-Nice, Contador Cracks, and Frank Schleck's Water Bottle

THEY CALL IT La Course au Soleil, and not for nothing. Now that the 2009 Paris-Nice has reached the south of France, the sun is finally shining on the riders. We went to the 7th stage finish today in Fayence.

The stage finished with a tough little 2km climb up to the village of Fayence and we positioned ourselves about half-way up on one of the switchbacks. This was the first time any of us has been situated on a climb and I have to say it was great. Because of the switchback in the road we could see the riders as they approached from further down the climb.

We watched as Luis Leon Shanchez easily won the race up to Fayence to win the stage. But about two minutes later we saw something I didn't think I would see anytime soon: we saw Alberto Contador crack! To be fair, he was attacked all day long and his goal this year is not to win Paris-Nice -- he has his eye on bigger prizes. But when he came into our view on the final climb he was being chased down by a large group of riders and right when he got in front of us the peleton blew past him. That's not something you see very often -- Contador is considered one of the 2 or 3 best riders in the world!

Here's a clip of the last eight minutes of the stage from Eurosport (without commentary). Contador gets caught right in front of us at 3:17 of the clip. If you stop it at 1:35 you can see a very fuzzy Kerri and Julia; and if you stop it at 3:27 and look real carefully you can see me with my red cap on. Come on, look close -- it really quite obvious if you know what you're looking for.

But perhaps the best part of the day occured after the stage was over when we were walking around near the team busses. Just as we were getting ready to leave, Frank Schleck rode up to the Team Saxo-Bank bus and pulled out his water bottle and threw it to Henry (he's proudly holding the bottle in the photo to the right). Then, a couple minutes later as we were poking around the Garmin-Chipotle area one of the team directors saw us and said, 'Americans? Come over here for a second.' He then reached into the team car and gave each of us a Garmin-Chipotle waterbottle. Kids love that kind of thing. (Oh, who am I kidding, moms and [especially] dads love it too).

Tomorrow morning we head down to Nice to watch the final stage. After the start on the Promenade des Anglais, we think we might head to the Col d'Eze -- a category 1 climb near the finish -- to watch the race unfold.

No comments :