A TdF 2004 Special

By Kirsten Begg
Cycling Historian









A CR/OLN/CCB Tour de France Exclusive


Hotel: 2


Odometer: 1000 km

July 5, 2004 

TDF riders seen: Debatable

Namur, Belgium

Stage: 2

Day: 8

Members of the crew with a leg in plaster: 1

Stage 2

Yesterday was a great stage: it only took us 18 minutes to drive back to the hotel! That is a truly great day. We were eating dinner by 9 p.m. It was a big night also as the European soccer championships final was being played so the bar was full of a multitude of folks all cheering and yelling – it was pretty cool. We got out of dinner just in time to see the final whistle blow. Greece are European champions – that is just nutty!

There were a couple of teams staying at our hotel last night which kind of bums me out as last year I managed to get through the Tour without seeing ANY riders. I guess riders in civvies in their hotel doesn’t really count – gotta be in Lycra but Guerini, Nardello, Kloden, Ullrich, Kessler, Pevenage, Dekker, Breukink (watching the Footie) and Botero were all filing into dinner. Ullrich was giving his baby daughter a shoulder carry through the dining room after dinner. I was hoping to see Levi as I’ve interviewed him before and always give him a quick “Hi” – would’ve been nice to congratulate him on getting through stage 1 but he was tucked up in bed.

On to Namur today – it’s a great day – the closest Portajohn is 2 meters from the truck!

This morning I visited with Willy Wauhtle from Dutch TV. I think of him as the unofficial Mayor of the TV compound. He worked 18 years as a photographer’s motorbike driver including covering 15 Tours with the well-known Dutch shooter Cor Vos. For the past 4 years he drives one of the camper vans for NOS, the Dutch broadcaster. Once he’s here – he’s pretty much done for the day so in the morning he sets up a canopy and tables and chairs at his camper and anyone is welcome to drop by and have a good strong Dutch coffee and one of those yummy Dutch cookies – lekker! His camper van is a welcome oasis of quiet in amongst the madness and most of us sneak over for a quick 10 minutes with the Mayor.

There is an incredible amount of cooperation and camaraderie amongst the folk who share the TV compound on a daily basis. It’s always good to see everyone again each year.

Tonight we head west to near Waterloo – tomorrow’s finish and finally into France. Our drives are still fairly short and reasonable – the first long one isn’t until after the TTT when we have to slog down to near the next day’s finish in Chartres. We have finally dialed in the GPS nav system and realized that you can’t always rely on Silicon Susie. She will take you off at the first exit for your town irrespective of whether you need to be at that end of town. I think our French GPS CD has more detail than the Belgian one so things should be fine once we get back into France. Of course “Susie” doesn’t understand all the Tour barriers that have sprung up overnight. There is pretty good signage from the main road to the TV compound parking and the press center etc but you have to get there soon and occasionally you come up against the barriers. Often you can move them and drive down the course which is the easiest way to get to the finish.

So, so far all is well. Everyone has settled into the rhythm of the day. Mornings are recording the pre-race show followed by a half-hour break for lunch. Then it’s back to it to record some of the earlier segments for the Primetime show and then after that straight into the Live show. After the stage is over, we then record some more segments for the PrimeTime show and also edit some features for the following day’s pre-race show like the stage highlights package and any interviews. Basically there is very little downtime and the different shows time in the truck is gel’ing into a very smooth operation. There’s a good 15-20 folk actually in the truck between producer, director, graphics, tape, editing and me – writing and researching. That's not counting the crew and talent on the set in truck #2 or Phil and Paul in the Tribune (commentary booth).

So everything is good. There are still clean clothes in the luggage, good food at lunch and not quite enough sleep-deprivation to make the afternoon a fight against the sleep-monsters.

‘Til the next time



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