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Thus, this town is a fitting site for the Tour de France to roll through during its fourth stage. The night before the race from Tours to Blois, I came upon a small bicycle club holding a ceremony for its top teen riders. Wanting to know their impressions of the Tour, I tried to communicate -- a challenging endeavor, given that I do not speak French and only one man in the group spoke English, and just barely at that. When I asked what the group thinks of Lance Armstrong, one man grabbed my notebook and scribbled a map of the area, showing the location of his house as well as a hotel 20 kilometers away where he claimed Armstrong was staying. He then drew a car and made several energetic gestures. "He says he can drive you to Armstrong's hotel," Jacky Aubert said.
|Here's Jim in Amboise at the Tour de France.|
|LOST IN TRANSLATION|
Take a look back at Jim Caple's European vacation thus far:|
While England slept
Strawberries, cream and Maria
Get off my back, honey
The amazing race
French fried over Olympics
|Those French fans sure know how to dress, don't they?|
They didn't make it in time. "The bikers were faster than the train," he said, very impressed. Armstrong and his Discovery Channel teammates rode the 42 miles in just over one hour and 10 minutes, averaging an obscene 36 miles per hour. The Tour leader, American Dave Zabriskie, inexplicably fell during the final mile, giving Armstrong the stage win and the yellow jersey as the new overall leader. The race was over, but the Carters and I rushed to join a throng of Armstrong fans crowding around a fenced-off area where he was giving an interview. The group included Matti Neustadt and her friend Keith Storie, of Portland, Ore. Neustadt seemed almost overcome with excitement at seeing her hero through a crowd and behind a fence. Then again, Neustadt got excited just seeing the support staff in the hotel the previous night. "I asked one guy," she said, "if I could get a picture with him and he said, 'I'm just the guy who sends back the Teletype updates from the course.' I told him that didn't matter, it was good enough for me. I think that's why Keith didn't let me spend the whole month following the Tour." Cycling is not exactly a prime spectator sport. You either crowd around the starting line and watch them take off, or you stand along the course for several hours so that you can see them whiz by for a couple seconds, or you wait for hours at the end with thousands of others to watch them sprint across the finish line. Some of the most exciting moments come when the caravan of sponsors drives by and tosses out candy, prompting grown men and women to scramble and scrape madly for a small bag of Gummi Bears.
|Lance took the time to sign some autographs for the fans.|
Although he probably would prefer the jersey to be a haircloth shirt that caused his chest to break out in a rash. Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," is on sale now at bookstores nationwide. It also can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.