Thursday, 5 July 2012

Le Tour Le Prologue!

June 30 and the last "official" day of my sabbatical, so might as well make it a big day and take the family to Liege for the prologue TT of the Tour de France! Convinced Eric and Astrid to come too and take the train with us, in turn dragging poor Jacco with them.
Fan clubs aren't just restricted to cyclocross stars, but definitely alive and well among the big road stars too. We met up with the "I love Wout Poels" fan club (first year Tour rider from Holland and the Dutch Vanconsoleil-DCM team), complete with his uncle (left of the banner). And even with all the drama around the Schleck brothers (Andy missing due to broken bones, Franck's supposed discontent with his RadioShack team), their fans are still out in force, complete with Franck & Andy flags, jerseys, and of course a bucket of beer!

Me being me, I went with the "it's better to apologize than to ask permission" approach and, when the police weren't looking, jumped over the barriers and snuck myself into the team bus area where the riders were warming up on the trainers. On the left is the Lampre-ISD bus. The fuchsia and blue outfits are better in real-life than in pictures, but the same really can't be said about the bus scheme and especially their time trial bikes...
Two star sprinters and two former Milan-San Remo winners: Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISA, Italy) on the left, one of the best sprinters of the past decade, and up-and-comer Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge, Australia). You always think of Petacchi as a huge sprinter, but they're so surprisingly lean in person.
Frank Schleck warming up 2 m behind and apart from his teammates in RadioShack - need for privacy or more evidence of team disharmony? Much more solidarity amongst the Saur-Sojasun boys.
Levi Leipheimer riding under his team's barrier tape and on the way to the start house on the left. OPQS teammate and World TT champ Tony Martin warming up on the right. Call me a finicky thermophysiologist, but I find it hard to imagine such a small ice vest is really going to help keep him cool on such a warm day. Ditto with those little cooling wristbands. And while we're on the topic, I saw not a single fan for any rider!
I'm not a big fan of non-black shorts, but I've always had a soft spot for the clean bright colours of the FdJ team. On the right is reigning Olympic road race champ Samuel Sanchez of Spain and Euskatel-Euskadi. Most of the riders avoid looking up at all and getting distracted with eye contact with prying eyes like mine.
And while we're on the theme, here's Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge and Australia, another winner of Milan-San Remo!