Le WeeFee, Une Lavage, & the Ibis Surprise. (Part Deux)

Where did we leave off…? Notice how many days have passed and I am just now getting to the blog. The most challenging part of the Tour for me may be the voluntary blogging! A typical roller-coaster day. We are now at the finish in Rouen. The skies are spectacular, swooping puffy clouds over a rushing wide river. Fans Galore. Gothic Cathedral in the background. C’mon, this is friggin paradise for a finish line!  Life Lesson #6 Enjoy the Minutiae.

All goes smoothly, no major drama or incident to report. None of our clients’ riders has won but tomorrow is a new day. No stress. We head off to get a little behind-the-scenes images inside the Omega Pharma Quickstep compound at the team hotel outside of town. Our expectations are modest, given that we spent most of the road-racing season last year following one team and even then access was unpredictable at best.

Life Lesson #7 Allow Yourself to be Delighted, surprised and delighted. As soon as we arrive, we seem to be granted a ShangriLa pass of access – riders getting into the ice baths, still in their cycling kits, inside a physio van playing with waterguns and laughing off the tension of the race course. [Stay tuned for this special gallery from VeloNews.com] Bikes are being washed in the resplendent late evening sun, sun-flares and all. Cars are being vacuumed out and shined while laundry is started by soigneurs in the team truck. Riders are heading into evening massage, and we discover the official team mobile kitchen. Did I mention being delighted?

The Omega Pharma Quickstep boys let off a little steam after a tough few days! Here goofing around in 12ºC water, brrrrrr! ©BrakeThrough Media

After an entertaining chat with Mitch, the young Belgian team chef, about trying to get on the Martha Stewart show (of all things) we call it a day. I have one more agenda for the day. Part of being within the race organization means keeping up the allure of La Grand Boucle – the supreme spectacle. All the official cars of the caravan keep their vehicle spotless and now, 4 days into racing,  our rental car is already a hot-mess of crushed bugs, dirty windshield, road grime. We spot a coveted Lavage just 2k past the team hotel. I’m on a high now for sure – our hotel is less than 10k away and we have had a supremely productive day!

As we depart the skies storm over, leaden with steely clouds and gusty winds. We drive through a posh neighborhood and think “not bad, perhaps we scored with a charming French inn off the beaten path…” Instead, we approach what looks like a detention center, stained stucco boxy façade with the air of despair.

The protocol for race vehicles is to be spotless. Teams have their own staff and power washers to get this done each day. For media, we are on the constant hunt to find an open “lavage” at 10pm! (C)BrakeThrough Media

One look and I know I cannot cope; sometimes you must know where to draw the line. What was humorously anecdotal 2 nights ago is now… just… depressing.  Life Lesson #8 Yes, sometimes you MUST judge a book by its cover. We abandon in all urgency and log on to the hideously expensive 3G as the skies descend on us! It’s an omen! Things can turn around on the drop of a dime, or a Euro cent as the case may be.

I quickly find a Mercure hotel in the center of Rouen (!!!), thinking they must have had a cancellation. We drive back into town as the entire day is swept away in flooding waters now coming down en force. I’m reminded of a storm we drove through last year after a stage finish in central France that had us swerving to avoid golfball-sized hail so as not to crack our windshield. We arrive in the center of town, only to be stymied by 23 one-way streets always the wrong way. It’s now 9:40pm and we still have to start editing once we get into a hotel, never mind a hope for dinner. We arrive at the Mercure finally, with hopeful hearts of free parking, strong WiFi, and a late dinner – only to find out that they are fully booked indeed and that I mistakingly put in the wrong date at Booking.com.

Jim says the concierge mentioned an Ibis only 1k down the main road. I’m now dubious of any such luck and start to accept the reality of sleeping in the car. Life Lesson #9 Sleeping in the Car is better than sleeping in the Rain.We get to the Ibis and indeed they have a room! Holy Grail of Fortuna! And what’s better, they have a restaurant, open until 11pm. And, as we already know, Ibis is pretty reliable with WiFi. And as all things come to a close almost at the beginning, we are back to talking about WeeFee! We have dinner and get computers hooked up for a late edit night starting at 11:15 pm just after I’ve showered and washed Jim’s socks in the bath. Life Lesson #10 Take pride in doing it Old-School Style.

Allors, Bon Nuit! Tomorrow we go again.