Monday, July 05, 2004

Tour blog 3

Bloody hotel phones don't ever work. You'd think it would be easy to get online in a Novotel, but for a still unexplained reason I couldn't. Grumble. At least we left the high class establishment in Liege. I don't think I'll be staying there again, although the cold shower in the morning was really such a welcome variation.

Today was the first road stage from Liege to Charleroi, a real dingy industrial town in south-central Belgium. In typical Belgian style it rained off and on for most of the day but dried up at the finish. The start was OK as I got a brief interview with Eddy Merckx, who is looking rather svelte these days but a bit worn. He was on the France 2/3 show for about 3/4 hour before I managed to get hold of him, as you can sort of see from the pic below. Unfortunately someone must have jogged Mitch Clinton's arm when he was taking the shot, 'cos he got the wrong bloke! Anyway, one for the record.

Eddy Merckx (R) clearly from a bad angle.
Photo © Mitch Clinton

What happened in the stage? Don't ask me as I was writing some news and freezing my fingers off in the press tent, which was scenically placed in a fruit marché somewhere near the finish line. It rained and there were crashes and the French got really excited when Nicolas Jalabert went down in the last 20 km. Oohlala.

I felt sorry for Brad who had a bad back and lost 6 minutes. He was in such good condition too, but his Tour may come to a grinding halt. And Nick Gates lost half an hour after a crash halfway. The race jury decided he was too slow and eliminated him later. So the gallant Aussie lads are down to eight, with Brad teetering. Maybe Robbie or Stuey or Cookie or Alby or Scotty or Dodger or Matty will win one.

Finding the hotel was significantly harder, as they did not know how to give directions. "We're coming from Namur, which exit do we take?" "Exit 9 sir to Wavre".

We took exit 9 sir and ended up tooling around in a parque scientifique which did not look like the Novotel. Rang 'em back. "Which exit do we take? We just took exit 9 and we can't find you." "Oh no, you should have taken exit 6 which is Wavre 9." Or something like that.

Nous had le dinner buffet style next to two thirds of the SBS crew (Mike Tomalaris and Honi Rowley) and chatted for a bit. Well, I mostly exclude myself from this apart from "yes", "no" and "that's terrible" placed at strategic intervals while Honi told us of her near leg amputation after a skiing accident in Aspen earlier this year. Ouch.

Then the phones didn't work again. Only a coupla days and then I'm back home :-)

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