Blue Crush

Now this is the Lance Armstrong of 2001 and the U.S. Postal Team of 2002, put together. I watched EuroSport highlights of Stage 12 on my hotel television last night. The broadcast was in German, for some reason (Corinna, where are you when I need you?!). To me, it sounded like, "Ich bin eine ich bin eine Lance Armstrong ich bin eine ich bin eine Jan Ullrich (yaan oool-reeq) bin eine kleine natchmusik."
But the video spoke volumes. Amazingly, what promised to be one of the most thrilling Tours in years may nearly be over already, barring accident or misfortune. The U.S. Postal Squad reeled in a vicious attack, then set hard tempo at the base of La Mongie. By the time the final booster of the rocket known as Le Train Bleu fell away (Jose Azevedo, the new and improved Armstrong mountain lieutenant taking the place of Roberto Heras), Hamilton, Ullrich, Heras, and Mayo had cracked, their remains broken and scattered along the roads somewhere. The slope of the mountains act as a multiplier, magnifying every disparity in form, and La Mongie, the heat, Col d'Aspin, they all spread out the peloton like so much Nutella on the baked baguette of pavement that was the stage 12 route through the Pyrenees. It's starting to look as if 2003 was just an anomaly, a year that Lance came back to the field, rather than vice versa.
Thanks to Ivan Basso, though, we still have a race. He looked just as strong as Armstrong at the end, even if his stage win was a bit opportunistic as he hung on Lance's wheel most of the final stretch. I expected Ullrich to struggle early; the course is not set up well for him, and only the final long individual time trial offers a great opportunity for him to attack. But I was surprised that Mayo never attacked since he had promised to try and go for the win, and Hamilton's early troubles all day were shocking. As he said, "I didn't have the legs today."
I feel like Bill Murray from Lost in Translation. I woke at 3 in the morning and lay in bed, staring at the luminescent glow from the neon signs of all the other Charles de Gaulle airport hotels as it filtered through the curtains. I made it to breakfast as it opened, at 6:30am, and it was a banquet. France makes the best bread in the world, hands down.
In a bit I hope to assemble my bike. The roads around here are not conducive to riding, so perhaps I'll try and open my legs up in the fitness centre. And then more German broadcasts on EuroSport at 2:00pm. I've ridden to Plateau de Beille, and it's a bastard of a climb. More fun fun fun in the Pyrenean sun. Wish you were here.
P.S.: Wherever I travel, I'm haunted by the Geoffrey-Rushian looks and maniacal voice of Richard Quest. I look forward to replacing him in my mind with some of the TDF podium girls.