July 24: Joys of the finish line

Yesterday, for Stage 15, we drove to Vernosc and took the tram up to the finish at Les Deux Alpes. To my astonishment, the gondola ride was gratuite free.

Since Le Tour is one of the most commercialized events in the world, it was quite astonishing that they were giving thousands of folks a free trip up the mountain. The view was spectacular.

We stopped on the way at the ski village of Le Bourg-d'Oisans, where I had a very funny, first-time experience. I got caught in a French self-cleaning toilette! I was rushing over to the bathroom, and as a woman exited, I just went in behind her. I hadn't even looked at the facility. Many French toilettes are a hole-in-the-floor type of thing. This one was spotlessly clean and I found out why.

The lights went out, and I tried to open the door not to be it locks while cleaning. Trapped in a French loo. I waited for a shower, and retreated to a corner. I learned first-hand the mechanics of self-cleaning. Water just sprayed out at about ankle height from a couple of easily avoidable sources and it was finished.

When I emerged, I had a small audience of the woman and her family, with expectant grins. They thought I would be soaking wet, I guess. I very nonchalantly said, "Bonjour" and dryly walked away.

The whole village of Les Deux Alpes was packed with people, but not as many as I had expected, maybe because it was a workday. The prime viewing spots were taken by 10 a.m. I schmoozed around and watched the big screen near then finish line. I also walked down beyond the "One Kilometer" arch to chat with a bunch of American fans.

I'll tell you, the television view of the last few kilometers was really misleading it was really an uphill climb! It was so great when Beloki tried to attack there, and Lance was on him like Velcro. The crowd went bananas it was pure joy.

My prime experience was having my picture taken with the sunflowers and lion that Lance received. Cindy Session-Henley, the managing director of Tailwind Sports, came by, carrying them. She asked me if I'd like her to take my picture with Lance's GC goodies. My digital camera flew into her hands and voila! A precious memory captured.

It was great only thing missing was Lance! And champagne. And I have to tell you that the sunflower bouquet is huge and must weigh 10 pounds! What a really nice thing for Cindy to do, in the midst of the post-race chaos.


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