So, what was the first thing that happened when I got out of the official tour car that pulled in behind the barriers at the stage 5 start village in Limoges? Somebody took my picture. In fact, a bunch of people did. Of course, they were waiting to photograph a real VIP coming to see the start of stage, but, it’s obvious that they shoot first and figure out who they were photographing (and delete!) later.
What’s the second thing that happened? Our host (Yann, who is the guy that’s not only in charge of the Le Tour, but in fact in charge of a multitude of events that ASO puts on every year) started walking us around the team buses. And we didn’t just gawk at the bikes like most of the other lucky few who had the right badge to access the “Zone Technicale,” we ducked under the ropes so Yann could talk to, and introduce Richard and myself to, all of his buddies in the peloton–like Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Greg VanAvermaet and of course, the fantastically blond, and notorious Kazak leader of Team Astana, Alexander Vinokourov.
All the guys we met were way more friendly than I’d expected them to be before the start of what was gonna be a pretty hard stage. But I bet part of the reason they were so friendly was that we were with Jann. Richard is also a celebrity in his own right and this became stunningly apparent when Team Dimension Data’s Principal Douglas Ryder met Richard.
“Cav is a huge watch guy,” Ryder said to Richard with his distinctive, South African accent. “I’m sure he’d love to see you…He’s in a meeting on the bus now, but, let me see if he’s available”
I’m not kidding. He even said so later. And it comes as no surprise that arguably the best sprinter the world of cycling has ever seen loves Richard’s watches that define performance, technology, and style like no other. Richard even told me later that Cav has been emailing and sending him sunglasses. Anyhoo, Cav immediately pulled Richard into the bus. They were in there for 15 minutes or so and then they came out—literally arm-in-arm.
Then all that was left was to say goodbye. Cav was off to defend his green jersey and we were off to the start area to get in the official car that we’d be riding in for the stage.
And then Richard grabbed Cav by the arm, took his own personal (and priceless) watch off and said, “Here, I want you to wear this. I hope it brings you good luck.”
Cav was speechless at first. Then he hugged Richard like he’d just received the best gift he could have asked for. Then he grabbed Richard by the neck and said “Come on,” pulled him on the bus, and presented him with a pile of swag–including one of Cav’s green jerseys–that was up to the magnitude of the gift.
I simply watched this all unfold as a happy bystander untill it was time to say good bye—and Jann told me to give him my phone so I could take a photo with Cav.
It really just worked like that. Since I was with Richard, Cav put his arm around me like I was his favorite brother. I mean have a look at the smile on his face. His sincere smile of happiness has nothing to do with having his photo taken with me, and everything to do with the fact that he’d just been presented with something special. And then we moved on. Next up, the sprinter with the best hair in the peloton, Marcel Kittel.
And no photo explorations of pro cyclist’s hairstyles would be complete without including the yellow jersey wearing Peter Sagan.
You can’t see it now, but Sagan has true Rock Star hair. Stay tuned for lots more on Sagan’s hair, hairpin turns, roadside lunches, and bike porn in Inside Le Tour de France: Part Trois.