A TdF 2004 Special

By Kirsten Begg
Cycling Historian









A CR/OLN/CCB Tour de France Exclusive


Hotel: 6


Odometer: 1450 km

July 8, 2004 

TDF riders seen: A few more

Chartres, France

Stage: 5

Day: 11

Crew members who sit next to me who have the flu: 2

Stage 5

Ah yesterday was great … the Posties came across the line victorious, hand-in-hand. They were hugging at the finish line, Landis threw his flowers up to Bob Roll on the set, Noval crossed the line crying to be consoled by his teammates. Lance is in yellow


I was in the truck. Sure I saw it on the monitors and I had to fight my way through the scrum to get to the edit truck to work on the Pre-Race Show but I didn’t SEE it, didn’t EXPERIENCE it. All-in-all that is fairly typical.

Also on the monitors I saw a good friend of mine – Alejandro Torralbo. He was a mechanic on the Festina team when I worked for Specialized as the team liaison in 2000 and I haven’t seen him since. He got dumped in the “Coast-Becomes-Bianchi-and-Shafts-all-the-Spaniards” move last year. I have to meet up with him – the bummer is that had I known it the night before – he was in the same hotel as us as he is with the CSC team this year. So that will my mission before Paris.

I also have a couple other pals on some of the teams – a mechanic on Alessio, a soigneur on Cofidis, a DS on Saeco etc – mainly all guys from the Saeco set-up from when I worked at Cannondale in 1997. Yes, I have done my time in the cycling biz.

Anyhoo, …back to last night … by the time we descended the truck steps and left the TV compound at 8:30pm, the Grand Place, earlier stuffed with the finish line, all the TV trucks and the pomp of stage 4 was desolate. The barriers were gone, some trucks still remained but a soft breeze tumble-weeded scraps of paper across the square.

You’d never have known that 3 hrs prior there had been a major celebration going on there.

We had a 270 km/2.5 hr drive to Chartres ahead of us so we chose to eat dinner in Arras seeing as it was so pretty. A quick pizza later and we were on the road. Susie Silicon and the GPS did us proud although as we whizzed around Paris’ peripherique again passing not only CDG airport (for the third time this trip) but also the exit where we picked up the car, we did wonder if she was doing us right. Leslie – the other carmate – was sound asleep on the atlas so we just had to go with Susie. The GPS really is sweet as at the end of the day you just don’t really have the brain power to navigate and it lets both passengers sleep if they like.

This morning was only about a 1km drive to the start. The finish area is on a disused(?) runway. The wind is whipping and the rain is going sideways. The peloton will most likely split today under these conditions and some poor sod who thought he was going to contend will no doubt see his chances evaporate like those of Mayo and Simoni.

The Simoni/Saeco cock-up , to me, is classic Italian. Simoni crashed approaching the finish but the lead five guys didn’t stop no doubt thinking that the new time trial rules would cut-off their deficit at 1’30 for 9th place. Which it did. What they didn’t do was read the rules which say that dropped riders record their actual time. Saeco’s 5th man crossed the line 2’36 behind the fastest time. Simoni crossed the line alone at 2’42. The first 5 got their deficit cut to 1’30 for 9th place. Had the fifth guy waited for Simoni and let him cross the line ahead of him even with the 2’36 deficit, Simoni’s time would’ve been cut to 1’30 because he would’ve qualified as the 5th man. So that was a major screw up by the team management. They should have said to the team before the stage – whatever happens Simoni MUST finish in the first 5. Apparently the team mgt appealed – I can just imagine the crazy, arm-waving that went on at that point and the pleading – hands pointed finger tips together at chin height. Ma come’? Ma come’?

So the Tour is unfolding. Not counting his prologue win in whenever (2002?, 2001?) this is the earliest Lance has been in yellow in the past 5 years and we’re still 6 stages from the first truly hilly stage.

More from the road later

P.S. Took some great photos of Arras yesterday but the camera decided to erase the photo card so I have lost all photos to date! Maybe I can snag some off Bob (the carmate) who is in a big huff because he is really my boyfriend but it just seemed too complicated to say he was the boyfriend in yesterday’s column so I am in the dog house. So just to be clear …. HE IS THE B/F! OK, hopefully off the hook now. (God …. Men … so high maintenance.)



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