It was raining. We were in the middle of a fucking rain storm! I couldn't belive that when I woke up but Lourdes was washed by a furious rain and nothing let hope that it would have got better later. So Andy has to win or loose his Tour in that shit rainy day. I couldn't decide if rain was an advantage or a problem for him, but nobody loves to be all wet three or four hours before a decisive attack on the nastiest climb of the nastier mountain of his almost won or lost Tour de France. Really. Instead I could imagine his face wakeing up and looking through the window: shit! Andy is a cool, relaxed guy so I presumed he has slept at least.
Cycling history says that Gaul used to prefer the bad weather, in mountain stages specially... Who knows if Andy felt a bit of 'Angel of The Mountains spirit' wearing his still – or again – white jersey that morning... For sure I was feeling cold in spite of wearing the warmiest clothes I had in my suitcase. When you leave to the Tour de France you are afraid of the heat usualy. Where in the earth was now the (un)-famous TdF killing hot heat? I'll find out in the TT and wasn't so nice. That morning however it was killing freezing cold.
"She is with the Schlecks" the waitress explained to the waiter pointing to me who were locking for my place in the breackfast room. I already saw my mates in fact: it isn't hard to recognize a Schleck fun when is wearing a fanclub t-shit, a funclub hat and maybe handing a Luxembourgish flag... I introduced myself – in French – and somebody said we already met in Fleche or Liège. Yes, we did. Schleck fans are the nicest people in the world.
Daring the still pourring rain we got on the bus. We were few, less then in the Classics because – they explained – many decided to stay at home after Frankie crash. I can't understand that: I mean, lost his bro Andy needed also more support! But Luxembourgers was shocked by that crash and boycoted the Tour as a kind of protest. On the bus I got some sms by Georges Noesen – the best photographer in the universe, you know! - He was trying to reach the top of the Tourmalet but the street was closed 5 km before, the weather was awful and he has all his stuff to bring up. Nothing can stop a profesional cycling reporter so he did it. I didn't. Our bus was too big to go there and not everybody was ready to climb the Tourmalet walking for 5 kms (or 20) in the rain. We went to Argeles.
I was a little disappointed, you can image, and if it wasn't my first day with the Lux group I'd have tryed to go with Georges. That was possible: we could meet somewhere, go by car and then walk as he did. Ok. I had a great time in Argeles: we avoided to get completely wet – but I had to buy an umbrela in spite of having the funclub waterproof jaket – we comfortablely ate, we watched the race passing and then in tv. Georges took some great pictures at the finish but I'm happy with the mine. Finally he is the photographer, I'm more a writer and living that special day in that crowded pub, among people from everywhere in the world yaling or praying, standing up in front of the tv for hours supporting their cycling heros was special. Moreover because almost everybody was supporting Andy. People didn't like Contador's attack and was amazed be Andy's courage.
So there I was when he flyed away trying in vain to drop out the Spaniard. I wrote a post that night – and it wasn't technically easy - beacuse god! Andy won! He won atop the legendary Tourmalet, where Lapique called "Assassins!" the organizers of the race. He won, yeah! But failed to win. And when he crossed the line I was so sad that forgot to esulte for the won stage. Then I saw he raised an arm and smiled. Aww! Andy smile! So smiled as well. Right. He was relived probably: he gave all, made the race, climbed that mythical climb with all his class, elegance and streghtness. It wasn't enough. But he couldn't have any regrets.
On our way back to Lourdes we felt proud of him on the bus and a little sorry thinking how the story could have been different if only Frank has been there. He would have followed Andy in the hardest climbs and Contador couldn't have responded to the attacks of both. We knew that so, as far as I am concerned, Andy won his Tour de France that day. As he won the Giro in 2007 given that Di Luca was doped. But dudes, Andy doesn't need excuses: he finally found somebody at his level and I think he's happy – chain stuff a part - amused and ready to fight.
Pic by me or G.Noesen