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Saturday, July 17 - Stage 13
Jerry and I both slept great on our matching single beds. The shower was very good, which is not something we get to say very often in France. I went to the grocery store while Jerry put the bike together. We walked down to our favorite pizza place to get pizza for breakfast.
We drove about 15k to the bottom of Plateau de Beille and loaded up the bike for the day. The climb was hard. A tandem isn’t a great climbing bike anyway and after we load up a bunch of water, LAF/LiveStrong signs, cameras and food, it’s like having another person on the back that’s not helping pedal. We were both dehydrated and jet lagged and then stuffed full of pizza. Not a good combination for climbing a mountain in the Pyrenees.
We stopped to rest once and put some suntan lotion on because we were roasting. I looked up and saw our Spanish friend, Raul, sitting on the other side of the road. Raul is part of Chechu Rubiera’s Fan Club from his hometown. We first met Raul and Chechu’s sister, Carolina, on Plateau de Beille in 2002. We also saw then last year as we were riding down Bonascre and stopped to visit again. We have kept in touch with them through email and had planned on meeting this year on l’Alpe d’Huez. Raul said he had some free time so he came with some friends today. They were cooking an interesting combination of squid and octopus. A little different than what we see at home at a typical tailgate party.
We finally made it up to a nice spot that would have some shade later in the day, so we setup camp. Jerry hung our LAF and LiveStrong banners, and the US and Texas flags. I took some pictures of our beautiful view and then we sat down to wait for the caravan and the riders.
According to schedule, the caravan arrived early. It was the same as always – Mardi Gras in France. Several of the same sponsor floats along with a new Spiderman 2 movie float. They threw about the same trinkets and snacks, candy, key chains, etc. When we saw the helicopters we knew the riders were close.
Lance was in a small pack in the front. Levi was trailing behind the pack, but we wondered why Tyler was missing. We had heard a few minutes earlier that he had been dropped, but rumors and misinformation are common on the mountain, so we generally don’t believe it until we get off the mountain.
The stress level on the riders off the front drops considerably. Chechu looked puzzled as Angie ran beside him waving his fan club t-shirt from his hometown that Raul had given us. He knew this little blonde haired girl screaming “Go Chechu”, was not from Llanera, Spain. George and Floyd rode by chatting. Benjamin Noval gave Angie a big “Hey!” when he passed and Pavel winked as he and Eki rode by. The rest of the Peloton passes in a huge group, with their only goal to make the time cutoff so they’re not eliminated.
Don’t think these riders don’t appreciate and sometimes even ask for a push when no tour officials are around…one Euskatel rider yelled Push! as he passed an orange clad Basque fan, and was quickly rewarded with a push as far as the guy could run.
We packed the bike with our LAF and LiveStrong signs and headed for the car. Lots of people, American and European stopped us to ask about the LiveStrong bands during the day. They seem to be the popular item to have.
It was a nice long downhill ride back to the car. We had moved the car from the hotel to the opposite side of the base of the climb so that when it was over we could avoid some of the horrible traffic snarls that always occur. It was getting very dark like rain was on the way so we didn’t stop as we passed the Postal bus. We got back to the van, tossed the bike in the back, changed clothes and jumped in just as the first raindrops hit the windshield. It was a real frog strangler or a rain! We had a long drive to Nimes, tomorrow’s finishing city. Thankfully the rain stopped as we moved away from the mountains.
We made it to our hotel around 10:30 pm, and there was a cute restaurant nearby so we had a fairly quick dinner (by French standards) with a beer, then back to the hotel. Our first to hotels have been very nice, a pleasant surprise. I emailed a few pictures to our buddy Chris Brewer for Lance’s Web site, then we showered and went to bed about 2:00 am, LONG day, but fun!