No matter how much you try to plan travel flawlessly, there will always be moments of, errr, miscalculation. If it weren’t so, I wouldn’t find myself and hour and a half away from my group in a random little village called Chatillon-sur-Chalaronne, a town I somehow believed was 15 minutes from Beaune when I was first sketching out this plan. I decided to take a taxi to the gare (train station) in Macon and catch a train up to Beaune this morning.
But I sit here now at the wrong one, of course. 7 k away from the other. And hopeless. I resort to calling my poor boss, who has ordered me stay put, as he will just get me. And so, now I can sit, drink my teeny tiny coffee and munch on yet another croissant: breakfast of (future heavyweight) champions.
When we left Alsace, we headed to the Jura to watch the finish of Stage 8. Though only 6 men were left standing, they held their heads up high. As JV mentioned in a twitter: ‘In cycling, a good team isn’t defined by how perfect it is in winning moments, but instead how it moves onward when all is shit. Onward.” Talking with the guys after Stage 8, it was clear to me that this was their group effort to make lemonade and not dwell on the past. I have always admired pragmatism and persistence. And so, this year’s Tour will be about that in my mind. You cannot be on top all the time. That’s just the truth. Much harder to rise to the occasion day after day when the chance for a final podium spot seems unlikely. My respect for them has grown even more.
I stay with them that night and get up to watch the start of Stage 9 in Arcs-et-Senans, where we enter a massive stone fort to park the team cars and bus. Everyone else seems more into spandex that ancient history. I ask several people where the heck we were, and they look around as if they hadn’t noticed and in a distracted tone simply say, “I have no idea.” My need to know only grows, and I learn that it is actually a salt mine from the 1700’s. It was central to France’s source for salt: ‘it was of paramount economic importance.’ Its grand presence is all I need to be convinced of its importance. The next time someone threatens that they will send me to the salt mines to work, I might take them up on it!
Zabriskie is up to ride his time trial, and I hop in the back seat of a team car with the NBC sports guy in the front, a team mechanic to my right and my man driving. We speed out and watch Zab’s butt for the next 40k. Zabriskie has always been one of my favorite riders. He has a pretty warped sense of humor and a slight undertone of morbidity–both of which I relate to immensely. His dry, sardonic sentences never cease to hit me just right, and I am laughing for days when I recall it. For example, yesterday, he discussed with me his backup plan after his cycling career: to open a blow-dry salon called DZ Nutz Cutz. Where people can pay too much to get their hair dried. Of course, that’s not where the concept ends. This place will also offer a selection of beef jerky and hot air balloon rides as well. (What???!) We all laugh like it’s natural enough… but it’s not. Only for him.
Last night, we stayed in a very adorable hotel in Chatillon-sur-Chalaronne, if you should ever go: the appropriately named Hotel de la Tour in the Place de la Republique. They describe themselves as a place for ‘cacooning and gastronimique’. Our cacoon had an open bathroom on raised tile, a clawfoot tub and an ambience that resembled an Anthropologie ad. All grey and brown tones, I felt I might have stepped into a piece of poetry, it was so delicate and pristine. I was happy to see they were given a nice place for their rest day. Because trust me, they ain’t all like this. In fact, many make the Holiday Inn appear luxurious!
We break from the team and head over to a nearby pizzaria with the team’s PR guru and the astrophysicist. The place they find is a total gem: Cafe Gourmand Maison— a little local joint with an impressive stone fire. The wine choices are extremely limited, maybe 1 rose, 3 whites and 3 reds. But they are awesome. We enjoy a Provencal rose and a Vacqueyras. The salads taste fresh pulled from the garden. We all regressed and shared banana splits for dessert. I never realized what a difference bitter Dutch chocolate ice cream could make! 15 euro later for each of us for everything, and I was floored. A definite must if you pass through this village.
Driving to this station, I still really saw no vineyards. I am eager to get on to the Cote d’Or, where we plan to go to Chambolle-Musigny, Meursault and Gevrey-Chambertin just today! Stay tuned for those travels in the next couple days…