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Stage 15: The cyclist in love with the moon

14/07/2013
Arid landscape.  Without vegetation.  Without oxygen.  Asphyxiating heat.  And a 20 kilometre climb.  That is what the Tour de France has found in the climb of the mythical Mont Ventoux, the most feared climb by the pack.  Probably it is not the hardest they will climb in the French race but the one that inspires most fear among those “route sloggers” due to all the previously mentioned conditions.
Stage 15: The cyclist in love with the moon

The black legends of this mountain, marked by the death of Tom Simpson in 1967, make this lunar landscape a place where no racer wants to return.   All but those that have the glory of being able to raise their arms at the top.  They have been few and illustrious: Charly Gaul, Poulidor, Merckx, Thevenet, Pantani or Virenque are important names, to which we should add Bernard, Juanma Gárate and Chris Froome who today gave an authentic exhibition. The Sky leader has demonstrated that he is the strongest man of the race and has done that with insulting authority.  He attacked on the seat, without giving the minimum option to his rivals that could only follow him with their eyes.  Even the brave Nairo Quintana was not able to resist the rhythm of the South African who left him when it seemed that both could arrive together.  Amid the great atmosphere, marked by the National Day of France, all have shown their weakness in the Ventoux desert except the indomitable yellow jersey that has perfectly adapted to the hard conditions of the Provencal moon.

BartalThis mountain brings back many and very good memories although, in spite of its legend, it is not of the most frequented of the French race.  I will never forget the 1987 climb, the only year a time-trial climb was held on the Mont Ventoux.  I was in the Reynolds team and the bay before I went to survey the climb with the team director Jose Miguel Echavarri. Through the entire climb, we were recognised by many Basque and Navarra fans with whom we had coincided in other editions.  Previously not so many went to the races but there were some groups that did not miss any. We stopped with some fans of Julian Gorospe and with others from a small town called Zubia who gave us some indications because they had done some part of the route.  It was funny because they told us many details but they also invited us to eat and have some wine that way we decided to not stop with too many fans because we were taking too long to reach the top, although what they told us was quite useful.  The day of the time-trial, a three-part duel was expected between Perico Delgado, Stephen Roche and the Colombian Lucho Herrera, but an unexpected guest appeared, Jean Francois Bernard. The French man flew past his rivals gaining more than one and a half minutes over Herrera y Delgado and more than two over Roche.  The French press rapidly appointed him as the successor of Hinault because what he did was really spectacular as well as surprising.  He had the Tour in his pocket, but his happiness lasted only 24 hours, because the next day he showed weakness and lost all his options of winning in the Champs Elysees, although at least he managed to reach the podium.

BartalThese were very difficult times, now everything has changed a lot.  There are much more people on the curbs, trips are easier and following is practically immediate.  This makes it easier and also means that everything has more repercussion.  In this sense, we are very happy in the BH Sojasun team, for all the praise we are getting.  We are one of the most humble teams in the race; we knew perfectly well that we did not have a racer for the overall standings and that on some stages like the one today we would suffer but we were also aware that we had to attack each day, something we have done.  We have been going two weeks and everyone talks well of us, the fans are all for us, and we receive many congratulations for the race we are doing and that makes us feel very proud of our txirrindularis (as cyclists are known in the Basque language).  They always leave their skin and as an example, how badly Jonathan Hivert has been, that although being road-sick in the bus he finished the stage, or El Fares that is spite of his lumbar pains he joined the initial escape of the stage, although later he had to drop out because he could not stand the pain.  It is a very gratifying experience and we still Dream of winning a stage. 

Bartal

We are fighting for that in the six days we have left.  Tomorrow is a rest day, something that is going to be good to recover the aching legs of all the racers in the pack that are at their limits.  Today we have seen the ears of the wolf in the Ventoux because the only objective was to not finish outside of the control, and some have suffered a lot to do that.  We have a passionate week before us with one day marked by all: the double climb up the Alpe d’Huez on Thursday where the organisation expects to beat the record of fans in the history of the race.  It could be a spectacular day. 

That is all my friends. Greetings from “the moon”!

 

 

 

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