Lost in translation
Journalists can't be in all places at all times, and sometimes have to rely on the odd team press release for comments from the day's protagonists. The headline used for the third stage from Saxo Bank's press office was a strange one, though: "Ambivalent, Violent And Epic Battle On The Cobblestones".
Epic, yes; violent, yes – but ambivalent? And this from Alberto Contador's press officer Jacinto Vidarte, where the defending champ was supposed to have said: "With all the tension of pavé, I felt very, very comfortable. With the failure I could not done any relay, could not stand up on the pedals and knew I was spending more energy than normal, but could not stop." What the …?
From DS to administrator
While on the subject of Saxo Bank, we spotted its Australian sports director Bradley McGee at the start in Cambrai Wednesday morning, and asked him what he was doing here. "My role? I'm like the administrator – I'm the go-between guy for staff and organisation and timing and schedules and all that sort of stuff," he said.
"If I do my job properly, then you've got Torsten [Schmidt] and obviously Bjarne [Riis] more concentrated on tactics." McGee added that if he's needed, he's more than ready to step into the director's role, but his primary focus is to make sure the Goodship Saxo Bank sails smoothly to Paris – hopefully with Andy Schleck in the maillot jaune.
As to when we can expect his protégé and Giro d'Italia revelation Richie Porte at the Tour, he said, "Even though he's a neo-pro, he has proved his qualities are more than that, so it won't be too far into the future."
Put a, er, bedgown on it
In the Scottish media the phrase is, "Put a kilt on it." It is a joking reference to the parochial nature of certain media outlets, and their desire to shoehorn a tartan reference into every story, no matter how tenuous (a classic of the type being a headline from April 1912, which read, "Titanic sinks: Dundee man feared dead").
But where were we? Oh yes, the Tour de France. And Geraint Thomas, a proud and passionate Welshman. And in Reims, at the finish of stage four, where we discovered that the habit exists in Wales, too.
Thomas's performance in this Tour is obviously making waves back home, so BBC Wales fired off three questions to a TV reporter, whose task it was to put them to the young Welshman. The first two were straightforward, but the third provoked a puzzled expression, from reporter and rider alike. "How much is the Tour de France part of your build-up for the Commonwealth Games?"
"It's obviously, er, great preparation, you know," said Thomas, effortlessly removing himself from the Tour bubble and casting his mind forward to Delhi in October, where - of course - he will represent Wales. "It's a tough three weeks, so it should set me up nicely," he added, before climbing back into the Team Sky bus to continue his mental preparations for Delhi.
One heck of a heckler
Lance Armstrong is famously adept at fending off doping allegations from the media, but it seems that even the would-be Governor of Texas has a harder time keeping his cool when faced with public opprobrium. At the Tour of Luxembourg in June, Armstrong invited a local gentleman making vocal reference to Floyd Landis's recent doping allegations to "come over here and say that". Same shit, different day, as Armstrong would say: today the same gentleman appeared in Cambrai before the start of stage 4 and shouted similar insults, prompting Armstrong to immediately cut short an interview with an American TV crew.
Fingered by this morning's L'Equipe for his "repeated anti-sporting acts", the latest of which was an alleged punch in Saxo Bank rider Jakob Fuglsang's ribs midway through yesterday's third stage, Robbie Hunter (Garmin-Transitions) wished to set the record straight in Cambrai this morning.
Thus, as Procycling wound down an interview with team boss Jonathan Vaughters by making brief allusion to the story, Hunter appeared on the steps of his team bus with the following message: "If people want to write something about that they should go and ask Fuglsang. What was written in the paper was totally wrong.
"Going into the cobbled section, everyone was trying to get to the front and [Saxo] were in one long line. I had teammates on my wheels, I went in front and he turned around and thumped me. So go ask him the true story..." And that's exactly what we did.
Stapleton keeping fit
After the dramatic third stage to Arenberg, Procycling drove to the nearby town of Saint-Amand-Les-Eaux to inspect the damage control at the hotel of HTC-Columbia and Team Sky. It was 9 p.m. in the evening, and as per usual, the team mechanics were the only ones still hanging around the team bus, changing machines tweaked for the pavé back for racing on slightly more normal roads. Just a few moments later, Erik Zabel and then team owner Bob Stapleton came rolling into the carpark, neither carrying an ounce of fat on them.