7am: wake – up. It’s so friggin’ cold in here at night: my bedding consists of one thin blanket 2 sweatshirts, both my rain ponchos, my half-dry towel and my jeans.
8am: we sneek in and take b-fast in the hotel. 13 Euros each is a bit steep but is justified by the fact that we steal lots of food for lunch, spare sugar for Har-V’s kitchen drawer and both grab a trucker’s shower in the lobby toilet. In addition we charged many batteries there for free so I’m saying it’s payback.
10am: I have explained to David Smadja my helper / driver the old English sailing term Ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Being Parisian he’s convinced I’m off my trolley.
11am: I’m sitting in big Garmie, my nickname for the Garmin Chipotle coach, and we’re off to the races. The bus has anti-bac dispensers everywhere and you MUST use them. The Tour is so stressful to the rider’s immune system that no-one wants to get a cold from film-makers and all the other riff-raff the riders come into contact with. They start taking pix of me shooting them. I take this as a promising sign of acceptance.
1pm: They’re off and suddenly Smudger and I have our own race to take part in.The race book shows us exactly how to get out of town and, while the riders have their route to follow, we have our own so we follow the orange signs across the Breton peninsula.
430pm: As we approach St. Brieuc the orange signs give way to signs of many colours: We want the green signs (Radio and TV) that will lead us to our special parking spots. They lead us straight onto the course and we drive the last 2 k at roughly the speed the riders will be doing it in half an hour’s time: 35mph! The crowd on either side look at us disconsolantly: “Allez-vous en” I sense them saying; “Piss off!
432: We approach the finishing straight (uphill) and our lead-out man in a blue Skoda suddenly slows and we’re overtaken by the municipal cleaning truck.
5pm: We’re at the finishing line with cameras: there’s definitely some sort of TdF finish line heirarchy going on here. I can get close with my backstage pass but what I have is not ALL ACCESS. It seems those are only given to people with huge freaking cameras who wear casual Italian loafers and have an account in Milan’s version of Eddie Bauer. It seems that a heavy dose of attitude is also mandatory. So, as Thor Hushovd comes hurtling by with a big winner’s grin on, I have to leap out from nowhere and start looking for my guys as the scrum presses in on TH and the yellow jersey.