Demigod of Pain, Tyler Hamilton Descends from Clouds
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ahead, I suggested we stay here as we had a long view across a saddle up a twisting curve into the scudding clouds and fog covering the top of the mountains. I saw no reason to go further and sit for three hours freezing in our sweaty biking gear. I pulled out my Herald Tribune and enjoyed the pleasures of good English in such a foreign setting. Soon, two more compatriots, Thomson Bike Tours team doctor, Allen Parsley and his number one patient, Carlos Fernandez pulled up with us and declared they were satisfied to stay right there. Carlos had taken a tumble on a long descent three days earlier. Dr. Parsley had patched him up on the road and nightly thereafter, but the image of him flipping over with his bike cart wheeling along side of him stuck in my head on each mountain descent since.
Over the next few hours we chatted, ate and napped. To really fine tune placement, Allen and I moved up the road and found a clear view on a short swale above the road and watched and made silly comments. Only a few people, none of whom spoke any English, surrounded us. We had to clear ground raisins left by the goats to make comfortable seating. Who can remember the jokes we made about that, but I know we didn?t eat any. When the promotional circus, the commercial caravan came by the lovely girls were bundled in robes and jackets and gave desultory waves. There were no helicopters and no sirens. It made me think that in contrast to where we had been for the previous three stages, we had dropped back in time sixty or seventy years. A half dozen of us had a full kilometer of Tour de France road all to ourselves. Half of the six wore high rubber boots, berets and were smoking. These were the Basque farmers or sheepherders who just walked over to the road for the afternoon to cheer their orange clad Euskaltel favorite riders Mayo and Zubeldia. It made me remember that F. Scott Fitzgerald had watched the Tour de France in 1925 through the eyes of Dick Diver in Tender is the Night .
The increasing commotion made him break off; presently it came to a serpentine head on the promenade and a group, presently a crowd, of people sprung from hidden siestas, lined the curbstone.
Boys sprinted past on bicycles, automobiles jammed with elaborate betasselled sportsman slid up the street, high horns tooted to announce the approach of the race, and unsuspected cooks in undershirts appeared at restaurant doors as around a bend a procession came into sight. First was a lone cyclist in a red jersey, toiling intent and confident out of the westering sun, passing to the melody of a high chattering cheer. Then three together in a harlequinade of faded color, legs caked yellow with dust and sweat, faces expressionless,