September 9 – Saturday

It rained off an on most of the night, along with fairly heavy wind. When I got out and looked around the parking lot I saw that quite a few vehicles had arrived since I last looked yesterday evening, and more just kept coming.

The morning started out quite cloudy, but slowly the wind blew the clouds away – I took a walk up the hill to the west and saw more hiking trail markers, and shortly after I got back it became warm enough to change into shorts and remove the merino wool shirt.
Two cars of police and a moto arrived, followed shortly by the banner boys, who took around two hours to erect one simple banner. We now have roadside barriers as well, so will have to choose our watching spot carefully as we won’t be able to run back and forth across the road easily.

Just before lunch the clouds re-appeared, and we could barely see the mountains to the northwest. The rain hit, but didn’t last long – after a surprisingly short time the sky was clear again and mostly blue.
Met a couple of Irish guys – Brian and Mark – and chatted with them for a bit. When the rain returned we all fit into the campervan until it passed. They were on bikes and had ridden to the end of the stage yesterday, then back up to where we were again today.
While waiting I took a photo of a little girl on her dad’s shoulders – I showed it to her and to him and they thought it was great – nothing like the paranoid b**** at the Worcester Festival! I ended up with several more hats from the cavalcade – I traded a kid a red one for a green one and now have a complete collection of red, green, and polka-dot – as well as another packet of olives.

One more time the rain hit hard and the wind picked up but I was standing right at the summit banner and didn’t leave – I just tucked my camera under my jacket and got soaked to the skin. Shortly before the helicopters showed up a woman from Cofidis walked in front of the barrier and stood right in front of me – she had an armful of water bottles for her team’s riders. I asked her to please not stand on front of me and she politely moved several feet further up the road. However, right before the police cars that precede the racers came all of the other team’s water carriers arrived and they spread out all along the barrier right in front of all of the fans that, like me, had been standing there for hours in the rain.
The rain did stop right before the racers appeared – perfect timing. I did get a few decent photos, but missed the best chances because of the damn water folks – one in particular really got in my way and I have several shots of the back of her fat head. She totally blocked out Contador, and everyone else I cared about. She did give me a water bottle afterwards (Astana), but I would rather have seen the racers. If she had stayed in one spot I could have shot around her, but she kept moving every time one of her riders came up the hill – it was impossible to predict which direction she would weave to next – incredibly frustrating for me.

It took quite a while for all of the racers to pass – they were very strung out in small bunches, with all of the sprinters in a large group at the back. The Belgians next to us watched the end of the race on their satellite tv and told us that Contador had won the stage – a fitting way to end the last race of his career.

The Grand Tour part of my trip is now over – big SOBs!!

Quite a few campervans stayed for the night but almost all of the cars cleared out. One of the Belgians had locked his keys in their motorhome so had called their insurance company who sent a guy up the hill as soon as the roads were re-opened. It took him a while but he finally got into the motorhome by unscrewing the top vent and climbing in from the roof.

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