A TdF 2004 Special

By Kirsten Begg
Cycling Historian









A CR/OLN/CCB Tour de France Exclusive


Hotel: 2


Odometer: 870 km

July 4, 2004 

TDF riders seen: 0

Charleroi, Belgium

Stage: 1

Day: 7

Items of clothing ruined by hotel laundry: 1

July 4th

Happy 4th from rainy Belgium! It is no party riding today I would think – windy and rainy with a nervous and rested peloton is about the most perfect recipe for crashes and disasters that exists.

Today it’s Charleroi. Nice short 30 minutes drive in this morning and 2 nights in the same hotel which is sweet – no schelpping the bags around for 24 more hours. Last night we had about an hour or so drive from Liege to our hotel in Nivelles Sud, north of Charleroi. The prologue finished late and we didn’t get away from the truck until after 9pm. We called ahead to the hotel and they said the restaurant was open until 11 pm. We got to the hotel about 10:45 and with the long line at the reception desk we just wheeled ourselves and our luggage straight into the restaurant and piled our bags up by the table!

The waiter handed us menus and then came back 2 minutes later and said “have you decided?”. We where just about to order when he suddenly said “Only beef steak, only beef steak.” “What?!”, we cried. “They said the restaurant was open ‘til 11.” “It is”, he replied, “but as of now I am the cook.” So I managed to twist his arm and get him to throw a lamb chop on the grill for me. So dinner was over by about midnight and off to bed for a 7:30 am alarm and 9 am crew call.

If you think our/the crews days are long they are really nothing compared to the days of the truck and set crew. They are responsible for setting up and breaking down the trucks, the set, the cables and everything we need to make the shows. They are at the TV compound way before us – usually in the early hours of the morning – and they are there long after we’ve left.

Every day is the same – assemble cameras, set, run cables, unload trucks etc then when day ends – pack it all up, drive through the night and do it all again at the next day’s finish line. They work wicked hard and get very little sleep and without them nothing would happen.

Their Tour is like cycling’s version of the movie “Groundhog Day”. The same mind-numbing, spirit-breaking build it up then break it down. It would drive a man to drink but Billy Bond and his boys do a fantastic job.

Another long day falls to Philippe and Audette our caterers. They are shopping for fresh produce every day, cooking all morning and then packing up and driving to the next day’s finish to prep and do it all over again. Today was another stupendous lunch: grilled salmon in a lime mayonnaise, green salad and coconut rice. The rice was fab – I’ve never had this before – it was like boiled rice with a coconut milk sauce. Just yummy. Then a nice little tartes aux pommes (apple tart), fruit or cheese for dessert.

Bob Roll is all over the vin rouge but most folks settle for soda, tea or coffee. Tonight it’s a short drive back to our hotel and then tomorrow onto the finish at Namur.

Armstrong and Postal’s ride yesterday was great. Everyone has missed the big tactical coup. The big score was winning the team classification. Why? Because the start order for the team time trial next Wednesday is the reverse order of the team classement. If you lead it, you get to go last and know all the splits of all your rivals. That is wicked smart riding. It wasn’t an effort where Armstrong was going for the win, it was an effort where every Postal rider went all out for the team ranking.

That’s all for today. Just hope that the Belgian weather ends.



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