Friday, July 6, 2012

This Could Be The Year For The Real Thing.

Stage Six - Epernay to Metz

Ollie comes over and brings a sixer for himself and some crazy Rockstar energy drink for me. Up to this point I've never before consumed any of those fancy energy drinks - Coca Cola is about as hard as I get. But I look at the label. As well as the usual shit - caffeine and guarana - it has both taurine and a bunch of B vitamins in it. Both of the latter I take on a regular basis regardless - they're part of basic vegan maintenance. So I launch into it. An hour later my brain feels a little electricky. Everyone tells me I'm going to crash before the end of the stage. I don't care. Those neurons are jumping around everywhere and I'm cranking the music loud.

An evening watching The Tour is by definition a quiet night, but it's Friday, so in order to mitigate the mellowness we head up to the Domestique Pop-Up Bar. It's only open from Thursdays to Sundays throughout The Tour, and then will disappear into the wilderness again, but it's a brilliant idea that has been well executed.

It's freaking cold outside - my phone tells me 4 degrees - but inside it's all shirtsleeves. They have a bunch of those outdoor space heaters on. Inside. That's a stroke of genius - I always felt a little guilty releasing all of that heat out into the atmosphere just so I could sit outside, but inside I have no such qualms.

The stage today is flat and non-eventful. For the first two hours FJ goes around pointing out the elephant in the room - that pro cycling is boring. He is later seen jumping out of his seat in excitement about what is unfolding in front of him on the big screen. Everyone else seems content to sit and chat until the final ten minutes, when another sprint will unfurl like a flag.

Dave makes the mistake of asking me about my recent Salinger obsession. I tell him that Salinger was a victim of what I like to think of as the Weakerthans syndrome - where you love one item of work (Left and Leaving, in the case of the Weakerthans) by an artist so much that you don't even want to look at anything else by that artist, lest the perfection of that work, or your love for it, be diluted somehow. In the case of Salinger, I had my dad's old copy of Catcher in the Rye, and that was enough. Eventually, though, I was bored at my former job, went wandering through the library, and found a copy of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters / Seymour: an Introduction. I fell in love with the Glass family and realized that sometimes love multiplies, rather than divides. I ask Dave about this in relationship to his young family and he confirms my suspicions, fairly glowing while he talks about his two young daughters.

Each year I think there are more crashes in The Tour than the last, and this one is no exception. This time the bunch gets split and a whole bunch of GC contenders - whose teams were apparently not focused, not attentive or just not committed to sheltering them from the tempests of the first week - get popped out the back. As soon as the first riders hit the deck Orica-GreenEdge go to the front and start turning it up. They're joined by BMC - there seems to be an Australian alliance at work, as BMC are obviously riding to help Cadel gain time on the GC contenders left behind, but also to get Cadel within three ks of the finish, so if there's another crash he won't lose time.

I've been impressed with BMC this Tour. It was a good decision to leave Hushovd out, I reckon. They seem to have a singularity of focus that the other GC teams don't possess - I think I even saw Phillippe Gilbert fetching drinks the other day. True to form they push to the front over the last ten ks, then swing wide to let the sprinters through once they hit the three to go mark. Lotto take over and drag Greipel to 100m to go, but Peter Sagan is on his wheel, and when the spring is uncoiled there's no bringing it back. The dude - and I use that phrase precisely - rips out this victory salute which we're later told is a tribute to the Incredible Hulk - fitting, since like the Hulk, Sagan seems to have made the colour green all his. FJ and I, both Sagan fans, high five, mimic his salute long after the broadcast has been turned off.

We spill out onto the street. It's even colder now - hovering around 2 degrees. Everyone appears to be smoking, but it's just the condensation of their breath. I take Ollie and FJ back to ours, but in the time it takes to drive those ten or eleven blocks both Ollie and I receive texts calling us to respective parties in different parts of the city. Not really wanting to drive, we decide to ride our bikes. Up through Northcote Plaza, along Separation, we ride with our hands in our armpits through quiet streets, not talking too much. Once upon a time we were fierce competitors, battling it out for the win every Tuesday night at DISC. But now some of that drive has disappeared - diluted, perhaps - and we're content to roll side by side until we reach Lygon. He turns into the city and I keep heading west. I put my headphones in and The Last Last One is playing. It's by the Weakerthans, from their first album, Fallow.

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