A TdF 2004 Special

By Kirsten Begg
Cycling Historian









A CR/OLN/CCB Tour de France Exclusive

July 13, 2004 

Hotel: 11

Gueret, France

Odometer: 3000 km

Day: 16

Stage: 9

Stage 9

Oh sweet rest day! Not the whole day but enough. Sleep late, brekkie on the hotel terrace overlooking a huge sand sculpture on the beach that was like 25 ft high, a quick saunter around town and then a 7-hour drive on national (i.e. one lane each way) roads.

Our hotel last night was also fab. We were in the quite medieval town of Aubusson – the peloton goes past/through it on today’s route – in fact, the last climb is the Cote d’Aubusson. Our hotel was an 18th century house with cloisters on the corridors, a master staircase that was cambered because it was worn so much and like 15ft ceilings. Our room at the Hotel La France was huge – there was an armoire the size of a double-decker bus in one corner, a writing desk, a seating area AND a four-poster bed. They don’t seem to yet realize in France that beds do need the box spring – too many mattresses on bed bases. Great hotel – another to recommend to go along with the Butte aux Bois in Lanaken and the La Diana in Carnac.

Just coz it’s a nice hotel however still doesn’t guarantee a shower curtain or a place on the wall to put the showerhead. So the shower is a challenging proposition of clamping the showerhead between your knees or just letting that thing fly and dancing around in the spray. Bob thought he’d hit the motherlode last night when he got in the shower and found that there was a hook in the wall for the showerhead in our 18th century hotel. A loud “clunk” later however and he emerged hysterical from the bathroom – the hook had held up for about 3 seconds before coming out of the wall. I guess we are doomed to never be able to just stand under the flow.

Until we found the 4-poster in the room we were fairly convinced that there was a conspiracy amongst the crew to book us a room with twin beds! You ask for a “double” room and you get a room with two twins pushed together … hello! So the 4-poster no matter that it was like 6” off the ground was a nice treat.

Ran out of undies yesterday but the laundry came back today – the timing of the slick OLN machine never fails to impress. Even the 7-hour drive didn’t drag too much. The sweet Skoda burnt off more than a few Sunday-afternoon-drivers in some of my best overtaking maneuvers. As you rip along there are constant reminders of traffic accidents as the French have a habit of putting black stand-up silouettes on the roadside at the site of road accidents. Yesterday we must’ve driven by at least 50 of these things on this super-long national road. They seemed to be always at the end of the overtaking section so it was a subtle hint to not push the overtaking maneuvers too much.

We arrived in time – 5 minutes before the kitchens shut and then we were out taking a walk around Aubussson. 2 weeks with no exercise and catered lunches is BAD! So we hiked around for a bout an hour – up and down these skinny stone streets – we even found a house form the 15th century tucked away. Right next to a condom machine! In France every pharmacy has a coin-operated condom machine on the wall outside – just in case you get caught short. Aubusson is definitely worth a trip back as is Carnac. The Bobster and I are planning on a trip to Cape Hatteras in Sept. He is off to work for NBC at the Olympics directly from Paris – on his run of something like 86 days in a row!

We keep kind of saying “oh we should do X when we get back” and then we remember that he won’t be back on US shores until early-September. Good timing for when the hordes have gone. Then things quieten down for him and we can go vay-kay.

Until then we are halfway into our trip here, 10 stages in, 1 more rest day to come and 12 days ‘til Paris. All is good and we are all psyched for tomorrow’s stage 10 when the race really begins and, thanks to the Bastille Day celebrations, we get to catch up with the fireworks we missed on the 4th.

A tout a l’heure.



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Kirsten Begg (L), Kirsten Gum (R) in the office. Click picture for larger version.