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Yellow Jersey Tours Journal: Day 1 - Montpellier to Nimes
By Locutus
Date: 7/18/2004
Yellow Jersey Tours Journal: Day 1 - Montpellier to Nimes

Editor's Note: Locutus has joined long time Daily Peloton sponsor Yellow Jersey Tours for one of its Tour de France cycling tours. YJT is owned by Cofidis rider and Daily Peloton favorite Bingen Fernandez Bustinza. Locutus will be filing reports of his experiences with Yellow Jersey Tours this week at Le Tour.

After a long and arduous trip via plane, train, and automobile, today we had our first real ride. We all had a long sleep and a big breakfast, and milled around in the parking lot for awhile waiting to shake the rust out of our legs. Our guides for the day (and for our entire trip) were the young Anders and the veteran Igor Flores, the former Euskaltel-Euskadi rider and older brother of Iker Flores. There are two main groups of people here on the YJT trip with me. The first group is the O'Flaherty family from California, with the daughter, two sons, and father all going on the rides. The second group is bunch of friends from Nashville, Tennessee. Of all of the people on the ride today, I think I'm the only one who isn't a triathlete. I still don't know if that is a good or a bad thing. But thankfully, everyone is really friendly and here to enjoy the trip, not to race and rip the legs off of the poor bastards in the group like me.

Igor Flores asks our mechanic Louis why the nose of his saddle is pointed towards the sky.

Our ride today started at the front of the hotel and rolled 50km until we hit the Tour route. Then we rode the final 30km of today's stage into Nimes. The ride started nice and easy, as we wove through the traffic of some villages and rolled through some of the farmland of the French countryside. We were riding in twos, and thankfully I ended up behind a couple of the big boys from Nashville named Ray and Rusty. These guys are triathletes who are both over 6' 4" and weigh over 200 lbs, and when they ride shoulder-to-shoulder they cut a hole so big that a Navigator could draft off of it. It was very nice.

My view for a lot of the day: the backside of big Ray
(notice the name on the jersey).

Of course as we moved farther along the speed increased, and after a while I had to take a turn at the front. Unfortunately, this was on a false flat, and Ray and I were starting to feel it. Just as I was pulling off the front Ray dropped his chain and I stupidly dropped back to help him rejoin the group. I say stupidly because Ray is so much stronger than me that he ended up dragging my sorry butt back to the group. Luckily, the group had to slow down in a village not too far up the road, so we were able to get some more water from the sag wagon and get back on without too much trouble. That kind of thing really makes you respect those guys who routinely go off the back of the group for water bottles and food for their team leaders - chasing back on with all that extra weight must totally suck.

Once we hit the Tour course, the stronger guys in the group really started to hammer. I yo-yoed off the back of the group a bit, at times drafting off of two of the women along with us and letting them pull me back up to the big guys. Hey, when the lactic acid starts to burn, all that chivalry and pride crap goes out the window: these women are hammers, and I was just glad I was able to hold their wheels long enough to get back on to the main bunch.

Andrea (in the red) and I catch some of the hammerheads on a roundabout heading in to Nimes.

For the most part the group stayed together, and we finally got to roll through the finishing straights of the course. The final ten kilometers had a lot of up and down, and it looked to me like the peloton was probably going to break up on that section of road. That final kilometer was treacherous: the 1km banner came right at the end of a very fast hill and a 90 degree right-hand turn. Then there was that sharp roll through the roundabout into the final 500 meters that looked pretty sketchy as well. Fortunately, there was a breakaway that made it to the finish - I was worried that my first day visiting the Tour was going to end with a bunch of guys stacking it in the final kilometer.

Rolling down the last 500m of the finishing straight

When we rolled through that last straight, it was a few hours before the riders themselves got there. The French police were everywhere, and wouldn't let us go down the final 250m of the finish. Still, we'd had a nice look, so we turned it around and headed out to the 3km banner where the Yellow Jersey Tours staff was waiting for us with lunch.

Ander tries to fix the TV reception while the rest of us eat and relax.

After lunch, most of us walked down to the finishing that corner in the final kilometer to watch the finish. It was wild: there were all kinds of advertising cars in the race caravan that came by throwing everything from nasty tasting licorice to cool clothing and Frisbees - and you had to be careful, as the models they'd hired to throw the stuff weren't all friendly and would just chuck the stuff at you from almost point blank range (I took a blow to the face from a model-launched projectile, but fortunately it was some kind of gummi treat so it didn't really hurt). The man calling the race over the loudspeaker was (of course) speaking French, and as none of us at the finishing line speak that well, we didn't quite understand what was going on.

Eventually we doped out that Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) had broken away, but we had no idea who else was in the break, where the peloton was, or when they would get there. When Gonzalez did finally come flying through that last corner, the crowd went bananas. The riders were going by me so fast that all of my pictures looked like colored blurs in front of a crowd. I did manage one decent pic of the leadout for the pack sprint, which was good, and I did score a frisbee, a Cofidis keychain, and a couple of other cool things.

Rider/blurs from Lotto-Domo, Cofidis, and Telekom lead out the sprint in the peloton

I'm still not sure what happened on the stage (that's what the Eurosport replay is for), but I had a great time riding and watching the circus that is the Tour. When we walked back to the 3km mark for our ride home, we found out that one of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team cars had stopped and given Igor some team hats for us - cool! One of the coolest things to happen all day, though, was when we were stuck in traffic on the way back to the hotel. Why was that cool? Because we were directly in front of the US Postal team bus, and I got a cool picture.

Johan Bruyneel kicking back and talking on the phone in the US Postal team bus

When they eventually rolled by, Bruyneel was laughing at us because we all had our cameras out taking pictures of them in the traffic jam.

So now it's off to dinner, and then the massage and the Eurosport replay of the day's stage. Then, it's a well-earned night of sleep before tomorrow's big ride up Mont Ventoux. Wish me luck.

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