What is the best medicine for the travel weary? Meeting up with good friends who you can completely relax with and lean on if needed. Such are Harriet and Brian and their daughters Grace Julie and Nora (aka the Watloves). Having spent many an Independence Day or New Years Day with them, and girls weekends in Portland, I knew we could travel together.
Brian really wanted to see the Tour and his family enthusiastically supported this part of the trip. I made reservations at one of the most affordable places for a family of 5—Les Jardines du Temps in Illzach about 5 km outside of Mulhouse. Brian quickly mastered the bus and tram schedule so we could get around on public transportation. Mulhouse (Mul-loose) offered a special for Le Tour E5 for a family of 5 so I became Auntie Julie.
Getting to the finish or Arrive for Stage 9 was relatively easy. We stopped at a boulanger near the tram station and bought a sandwich and then headed to the finish line about 1 p.m. We could have gone anywhere near the finish at that point, but chose to be at about 350 meters from the line. This way we could see all the team cars and other vehicles before they turned off, and better defend our space on the railing. (My favorite team bus today was Astana—they have all of the stuffed lions from Nibali’s yellow jersey sitting in the front window!)
The Watloves promised a friend from Humboldt County to look for a memorial to relatives who died in the Holocaust in Mulhouse. The old cemetery was literally 100 yards from the finish line. They found the memorial and took a lot of pictures. Their friend’s mom survived the war because a neighbor hid her and her parents in a barn for six years!
This stage was the first of the climbing stages and the characters are starting to appear. There was a Viking invasion from Norway, and an Aussie invasion from down under. I bumped into my train friend Ashilde and her mom. By this time I had completely lost my voice so I was not able to say much that could be understood.
Harriet spotted a Jens Voigt fan club and came and got me to take pictures. I returned with Grace Julie to give me a voice and translate German. Ergo Patron has been a huge fan of Jensie since 1998. He is from the same town, Mackleburg, in Germany. Then he introduced me to Jens’ mom and dad! They did not speak a lot of English, still we managed to figure out that I am from California, his Mom has relatives in California and Jens is going to Utah and Colorado after the Tour. A lovely couple.
Every so often we would check the big screens to see where the racers were on course. Tony Martin was blazing a 8 minute lead in the breakaway. At about 60 km he dropped the only other rider in the break and forged on alone. His lead dwindled and still I was hoping that he might stay away and win the stage. I have enjoyed his riding since his days with Columbia HTC and last year he had a second place finish. He is the reigning world champion time trialist, and a great road warrior for Omega Pharma Quickstep and I hoped he would win. Grace wanted him to win because he is German and it would bode well for the World Cup. She has been living in Germany this past year on exchange and feels a certain loyalty to her host country.
He did win the stage. Icing on the cake: Fabian Cancelllara came in second in a sprint for the line. He was part of a bunch that trailed Martin by about 2 minutes. The same bunch included Tony Gallopin who took the yellow jersey off of Nibali. A Frenchman in yellow on Bastille Day—nice gift to French fans.
We had to get creative after the race as the public transportation was not restored to normal for some time. The girls really wanted to watch the World Cup Germany vs Argentina game in a pub. We walked to Illzach and found a kebab place for dinner but nothing that looked like a public place to watch the World Cup. And it started to rain hard. So we hustled back to our lodgings and they watched the game and I dozed. You all know Germany won in overtime.
Mulhouse lit fireworks. For the World Cup, the Tour or Bastille Day? Take your pick.