ASO, despite their magnificent job with maps and descriptions, has a bone to pick with SNCF. The national rail line says the finishing town is Digne, not Digne les Bains, as indicated on the map.
Not a big deal, but confusing when trying to get around by public transportation. I was convinced I’d have to get myself from the bus stop to this resort town described in the lit.
Bought the retour ticket to Digne from Grenoble. Train to bus, see the finish, then rush for the bus to et to the train. The only combination I could find arrived at Digne at 1:55, and left at 5:15. That meant if the stage winner took it slow, I’d be cutting it close. If he went faster than their predicted time, I’d have an hour after the stage.
Got to Digne at 1:55, right on schedule. Found out the finish was about a k away, just across the bridge on the other side of the river. Even had time to check out to visit the press room. The finish seemed barely two lanes wide, and they had to go around the right side of a traffic circle exactly at the 1k point.
The caravan sponsors have golf carts cruising around the finishing area handing out giant green fingers, hats, nestle ice cream novelties, aquarel water, etc. Haribo’s etape des enfants was 800m from the finish. Everything was barricaded.
There were bleachers and a large-screen tv set up by the finish, but that lacked the fun. I wanted to check on progress before the finish. The race comes through town, goes out on a 40k loop, then finishes 1k from where the race first passed through.
I was looking at the timetable to see when the race first passed through. I was in the pressroom when I heard the choppers. Had to run for it with Sal Ruibal, and we just missed the first pass—the race was 10 minutes faster than predicted.
The only thing left to do was find a café, sit down, and watch the race. We found a café exactly at the 1k mark, and they had a nice flat-screen TV and a table within close proximity. Orangina and a croque monsieur and watch the kilometers wind down.
Moncoutie should have been caught. Even if he was on an inspired ride because of bastille day—btw, not much bastille day festivities in town—the chase group was close behing for a long time. It seemed like tactics on the day.
Meanwhile, we were getting quizzed in French and English by a local kid. When he heard we were Americans, he told us he was Osama Bin Laden. It went from there. Funny kid.
When we could tell by the return of the choppers and the visual of having the k’s wind down, we went out to the course. We expected Moncoutie in five minutes, and he didn’t disappoint. Over in a flash. Then the chase. A gap of several minutes, and the field, with McEwen ready to pounce.