Monday, July 05, 2004

I, Royalty

Today was my second last day on Le Tour 2004 and it wasn't so bad. Monsieur Tim and I are into our rhythm now and are pumping out le TOUR news like it's going out of style. We get by with a little help from our friends.

Today the start was in beautiful downtown Charleroi, which is a downmarket and more industial version of Liege. It looks as though it hasn't been washed for 30 years, kind of like Tim and I on Day 3 of Le Tour. But there was one good bit in the middle where the stage started - a large square in front of the Beaux Arts Musee or Opera, I can't remember which.

Charleroi, being named after King Charles, set the scene for a rather royal day ite and abite in Belgique. Firstly the Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt rocked up at le depart and was wandering around alone, no minders or anything, appreciating the atmos. He was being interviewed by Belgian radio and I thought I'd have next crack at him, but to be honest I couldn't think of a decent question to ask so I talked to Matty Wilson instead. He had to tow Brad McGee to the line yesterday after McGee buggered his back gardening two weeks ago. That's nearly as bad as Jalabert slipping off a ladder changing a lightbulb!!

Thankfully it was only a short hop to the finish in Namur, which is a much more pleasant city than Charleroi, being at the junction of the Sambre and the Meuse. The press room was good and there was a great buffet which was taken advantage of by two members of our staff.

There was more fun to come as during the stage, the one and only King of Belgium rolled up and strolled through the press room!! This time there were many minders and securite, but Tim still managed to commit a big royal faux pas and ask the King a question without being spoken to first :-) He was put up to it by a couple of Gazet van Antwerpen journos, but hey, we were the only ones in the press room to get a quote from the King of Belgium today!

One of our other people, John Trevorrow (Iffy) managed to slip the King an Aussie badge or something, and when he met Robbie McEwen (who won the stage) he had made a great Royal Joke about kangaroos and such like. Guy Verhofstadt and Eddy Merckx were also there so it was a pretty good photo op. I was busy doing other stuff but.

The last bit of royalty for the day was when we visited the US Postal hotel for a very modestly sized press conference with Lance himself. Tim went in but I had to sit outside out of respect for the 5 other journos there, as otherwise we'd outnumber them ;-) That was ok, as I didn't have to transcribe it at dinner so I could enjoy my supersized glass of Hoegaarden followed by a less gigantic Leffe blond in relative peace.

I also got to watch Lance's security staff throw out an overly keen fan who decided to wander in through the open window. That was fun. Lance's personal bodyguard is a big guy.

How did it get to be this late again?

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