Is Paris Nice?


Ilan Vardi

Eh, yes, but the title is really a totally lame play on words. Last weekend, me and the wife went to check out the start of the bike race Paris-Nice, which is a week long stage race and a kind of mini Tour de France. I looked forward to this, as I figured it would be more laid back than my adventure trying to see the arrival of the Tour de France and probably more similar to my experience with the arrival of the Grande Boucle AKA Women's Tour de France, in which I got to meet one of the riders.

Unlike those other races which end in Paris, this one starts in Paris, usually just ouside, this time in Issy-les-Moulineaux, just to the South. The first stage was a prologue consisting of a 3 mile individual time trial through the city, featuring a big climb and equally big descent. It was impressive as our first glimpse of the the race was riders warming up by zooming down the descent at over 40 mph. Speeds in the race must have been closer to 50 mph. Amazingly, they were still going over 25 mph up the climb like Didier Rous seen here finishing that part of the course.

The nice thing about the Time Trial format is that you get to see every rider over a two hour period.

Here's Catherine in front of the starting ramp. This race is much more enjoyable to watch than the the arrival of the Tour de France, since it is much more mellow but has the same riders. You can get up close and personal, which mostly means watching them warming up on their trainer.

Here's a guy from the new Brioche La Boulanger team, formerly Bonjour. That sponsor did good, because no one I've met so far in France has ever heard of them.

Though the professionals were very impressive, Catherine couldn't see too much difference with me, at least trainer-wise. She had much experience to base this on, since this last Winter, I averaged an hour a day on the trainer in the living room, while she watched TV or played Canasta on Yahoo Games.

You can also ask the riders for autographs, and a number of people had photographs of the riders to sign. I should point out that almost all of the autograph seekers were middle-aged men which quite nicely brought out the Peter Pan aspect of bike racing.

Next up was US Postal Service, but no Lance, he was in Spain. That guy hanging around apparently gets paid for figuring out whether the riders need anything, like water, in other words, a real domestique.

Last, but not least, we come to TIOOYK (There Is Only One You Know, as Phil Liggett says):

Yup, it's Eddy Merckx, the greatest bike racer of all time. Interestingly, all the other teams had their riders cordoned off, except for his Lotto Team. He was hanging out with son Axel, who was sitting on the bonnet of a car, and this kid on the left who might be his grandson. In a word, Eddy is regal, taking the continous barrage of compliments and adoration in stride.

Here's Cath next to the Great Man, and I did my best to appear natural, the only thing I could think of saying to him was: "Bonjour, Monsieur." Oh well..

At that point, Eddy got a phone call and went to work.

Back in 2005!

We came back in 2005 with our puppy Hedwige. This time it was freezing cold, literally, as it never got above 0C.

Here is Catherine trying to get some unfrozen water for our thirsty puppy.

And on the course, it was so cold that she put Hedwige to good use, as in three dog night. Hedwige can be seen looking intently at the lead motorcycle and is getting ready to pounce on the unsuspecting bicycle racer following it.

Here is Hedwige about to perturb the race again as she is preparing to execute her famous backward leap over the barriers.

By that time, we had enough and left before Lance came by. He left the race a couple of days later.

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