By Susan Westemeyer
Tour de France riders had to deal with a lot on Wednesday – with the event's queen stage during the day and then in the evening cope with Moreni's doping test, Cofidis' withdrawal and finally Rasmussen's dismissal. But Team Milram had to cope with even more - the team bus gave up the ghost on the 80 kilometre drive back to the squad's hotel.
All were on board, but "after the big back-up around the finish line, nothing worked any more," said Enrico Poitschke. And once the bus managed to make it to the toll road, it couldn't get above 20 km/h. "Only the first and second gears worked."
The driver tried everything he could, but nothing helped. He finally pulled over to the side of the road, where the riders climbed into team cars. They finally arrived at the hotel at 9 p.m., more than 12 hours after they had left it.
The bus was taken to a garage in Pau, which was of course closed for the evening. The team had to climb back into the cars Thursday morning to get to the start and look for a place at the Tour village to change clothes.
The whole transmission had to be rebuilt, and there just wasn't time to accomplish that by the end of the stage. So the Milram riders had to sit on folding chairs outside - in over 30 degree heat - to recover from the stage, and then wash and change right there on the side of the road. They then climbed into the now-familiar Skoda team cars to head for the hotel.
Here they at least had a pleasant surprise. For one thing, it was much closer than the previous night's hotel. For another, the hotel proved to be the Chateau Residence de Terrides, built in 1887 as the summer residence of the Earl of Clervaux, and which they shared with Euskaltel-Euskadi and Predictor-Lotto.
However bus driver Diego was unable to enjoy the luxuries. He stayed behind in Pau with his vehicle, waiting for the repairs to be finished. The riders will take the Skodas to the start again Friday morning, but hope that their faithful (and air-conditioned) bus will once again be waiting for them at the finish line in Angouleme.