7.31.2016

Tour de France 2016 Reportage 6: At the Podium in Emosson and adventurous travel back

Zakarin came like a thrown stone. I could see him very well from my place, precarious but just above the finish, on a rocky slope. My goal was about 100 m away but I have got a firm hand and shot. 
The second one was Pantano, he appeared from behind the corner head down on the handlebar, his face covered by the top of the white helmet shining in the sun. He was here, he rose his face and I saw he was smiling, or maybe his mouth was open to grab more air. He was in need of full breathing after the brutal effort. 
The finish was uphill, Zakarin was just over the line and a chaperon was running to stop his bike and to push it a little further, to the flat dirty road toward the podium. His face was mute, he looked empty. The arm he had risen, his body still low over the tube, was now abandoned. All the energy was gone. Accomplished, done, too tired to show the joy of the conquest.
But before it was the motorbikes' sirens, the team cars at full speed, the organisation's cars, masseurs and mechanics walking toward the line, photographers lining just beyond it, standing or crouched down. It was the crowd stopping breathing, the voice of the speacker, a big roar, the flags waving. The winner! the first chasers! the group....! 
I saw a rider crying, exhausted. Others giving it all to gain few seconds. Faces I know and faces of I don't remember. What a terrible thing a great race is! drained but proud, unable to walk at the moment or to get off their bike but ready to get in tomorrow, the riders arrived one by one or in small shattered groups. Chris Froome was on Richie Porte's wheel, both looking worn out.
"Let's go". There was a huge crowd already in front of the podium and blocking the road to the team buses and the dam. My son climbed on a pole like a well rised monkey and took some quite good shots. Then we had to cross a steep stretch of grass and to climb over a fence to go beyond the podium. I put my boots on the fence but remained there a little, unsure if I could jump on the road or I need to step somewhere... "NOT on my bike!" I woman was. Her bike was exactly under me so YES, on her bike no doubt, unless she was quick on moving it. It was just a second, a little step and a short jump. Off to the bus without looking behind!
"He did it!" I said Danny - Trek's bus driver - and he was: "Yep, few seconds". Indead Bauke Mollema was still in 2nd GC position but he had lost time today. He was going to gain it back by a wonderful itt the next day... to lost everything in a crash. From 2nd to 11th. That's cycling. And still a splendid Tour by the Dutch man by the long nose. He'll take his revenge in the Clasica San Sebastian, with a stunning solo victory.
"Who's that? isn't he Fabian? yeah! look! that's Cancellara. No good. He's getting in the car and saying good-bye". Here I saw the last of Fabian Cancellara's last Tour de France. Not happy to quit still forced to. He had honoured his land bring the bike up there but it was time to go, to think to the Olympic Games.
It was time for us to run to the La Verticale again and to travel back all the way to Martigny where we were supposed to arrive around 9 pm. There was a huge queue, patient and relaxed. People commentating the race, fans from different countries taking pictures of each others. 
Waiting for the last cableway something unpleasant happened: a man was ostinately skipping the queue. When he brutally stepped in front of me I said in French: "Hey? why are you passing in front of me? we are all waiting.", "I don't understand" he quickly said in English avoiding any eye contact. "I speack English very well" I insisted "Why are you passing me? you were behind." I looked at him: he wasn't young not very old, about 60, maybe less, wearing an expensive hiking attire. A poor woman walked after him in silence. He kept violently talking against me,without listening, looking away, pushing in front. "Shut up and listen!" I finally exclaimed "I am a woman and you have an age you must know you are being unpolite. You can have the place but you must know it.", "Yes I know" he hissed, and, to his wife: "Awful". They took the last two places in the cabine and we watched him pushing the people inside to get more room... We found them siting apart in Chatelard, waiting for the last train to Martigny, the only one we all got in twenty minutes later. All his pushing had been for nothing. I felt pain for him and forgot my rage.
It wasn't over yet! In the last station before Martigny the train stopped. There was a big problem: the train coming up had had an accident and was blocking the line. It was too far to walk and we could do nothing but wait. It took them almost one hour to have the train removed and the line fixed, we arrived at 10 pm in a hot lively Martigny, full of bars and music. Unfortunately we were too tired to apreciate and we went straight to our bnb, in an ancient house finely restored. It was late, it was awfully hot, the bathroom was on the stairs and the bed was definitely too soft. In add it was covered on a fleece sheet! I layed a towel on the floor and slept there. 
We woke up at six and not just because we had decided to but because the church was next to the house and the bells were singing as hell. We had not even unpacked so we just excaped from Martigny. The train brought us to Brig and from there to Milano. But that's a different story.

7.30.2016

Tour de France 2016 Reportage 5: Emosson Finish Gallery

San Sebastian: Bauke Mollema Takes His Revenge!

He attacked on the last climb from a small late break-away including Rodrguez, Valverde, Adam Yates and Van Avermaet. Nobody could really respond and he went to the finish. Bravo Bauke! What a sweet victory after such a bitter Tour!

Bauke Mollema:
"The last days of the Tour de France were really disappointing for me, and this was a good way to fight back. 
I recovered well from the Tour, and I am really happy to win, I have always loved this race. This is the first WorldTour classic I have won; I have always wanted to be on the podium of this race and have one of those Basque hats, and now I finally have one.
Yesterday in training I did the last climb twice and three times the descent, so I knew what was coming. I was a few places behind when Rodriguez went, and it was a narrow climb, so it was difficult to pass the other riders. But I felt quite good and knew that I could close the gap in the last few hundred meters of the climb. On the top, we were four and Rodriguez slowed down a little bit, and I think that was the perfect time to go. 
I just wanted to try something, and it was a good moment for an attack, it was still 500 meters flat at the top. I tried and saw I had a gap and then it was just full gas until the finish. I think with two kilometers more or less I knew I had it. I still felt I had some power in the legs, so I was not going to blow up, and when I looked back, I didn't see the second group. I felt I could keep it until the finish – it was a nice feeling, especially in the last few hundred meters."


RESULTS
1 Mollema 
2 Gallopim +5 
3 Valverde +5 
4 Rodriguez +22 
5 van Avermaet +34 
6 Brambilla +34 
7 S Yates +34 
8 Slagter +34 
9 Roche +34
10 Devenyns

7.29.2016

Tour de France 2016 Reportage 4: Adventurous Travel to Emosson

"Honestly, I do not experience fear in the mountains. On the contrary I feel my shoulders straightening, squaring, like the birds as they straughten their wings. I enjoy the freedom and the altitude. It is only when I return to life below that I feel the world's weight on my shoulders." So true! The Alps again, I was readimg "The Climb - Everest 1996" by Anatoli Boukreev and falling in love. I has always loved the high mountains and I know very well that feeling of freedom, strength and lightness, in spite my experience is way more limited than Boukreev's, a legend and no doubt a good man. 
Still you don't need to climb a 8.000. Look the Mont Blanc, just out my train window! almost a 5.000, so big even in the distance, white and silent. But think about your domestic mountain, the mountain you climbed as a child, the first impact with its solemn wilderness, its threatening beauty. Simple, essential, sharp. 
I was traveling toward the Tour de France stage finish in Emosson, just over the dam: almost 2.000 m of altitude. And I was coming from the stage start in Bern. I was traveling against the clock to be atop in time, but I was traveling by train so I had no way to affect the speed of my travel. I had checked the time table and confided on the Swiss punctuality. 
In Visp we had a very short connection, just four minute for the train to Martiny, but we made it. In Martigny we had to wait instead: the Mont-Blanc Express was expected to bring us to Chatelard and we had had to book it early to find a place on it! In fact there were only two trains reaching the finish in time but the first one was all booked already at the end of June and we had to take the second one. 
It arrived eventually and we jumped on board. It ran beside the road for a while, we had the time to glipse the break-away, then the peloton. "Are we late?! Hey?! Aren't we?!" we panicked a little but no: they had to climb by bike a whole mountain while ore little train was doing a good job. 
The landscape was incredible: deep alpine gorges, steep slopes covered on giant dark green trees, waterfalls, rocky scarps just below us... and the Mont Blanc in front, up there
There was a lot of people in the small station of Finhaut, waiting for the race on the last climbs, but we went sraight to Chatelard, where La Verticale starts: it's the steepest cableway in the world! 
The small train disapeared on its wild trip to Chamonix. The cableway cabine was waiting for us. Up we go! What a lift! The view became larger and larger untill we reached the first station. Here we had to take another train, smaller than the first one, like a fair's train, with open vagons and a small locomotive. It ran on very small rails, on the bare slopes of the mountains, the scarp very close. 
The weather was very good, sunny and serene, but the air was fresher and definitely cold in the small dark tunnels. A last bend and we saw the dam, huge and grey, the tiny team buses parked in a coloured line all over it.
The fair's train stopped at the last station of La Verticale and up we went again. A signal said: "Lac d'Emosson: altitude 1962 m". No time to celebrate: we dashed to the finish, our backpacks on our shoulders, as fast as we could.

MORE TO COME