Felix Gall had just fallen in the lead in the mist of the Col de Soudet when the plane landed in Munich on Wednesday afternoon.
In a group behind, several major clients, such as the indestructible Wout van Aert and the untenable Julian Alaphilippe, launched the battle. Hugo Houle had gotten up, but his roommate Krists Neilands was still there.
The UAE of the yellow jersey Adam Yates and Tadej Pogačar observed the situation from a distance, with Jonas Vingegaard wedged in the wheel of the Slovenian.
The presence of Jai Hindley among the runaways was cause for concern, especially since the German champion Emanuel Buchmann, his right arm at Bora, accompanied the Australian winner of the Giro in 2022.
A dream scenario, in short, for this first mountain stage the day after the rumbling procession through the Landes and the Gers.
After a semblance of night, I rolled my suitcase into a sleeping Nogaro to arrive at the stop just before the rooster crows.
The moon lit up the hospital with more than 200 beds, mostly devoted to dependent elderly people. The modernity of the complex, recently enlarged and rebuilt, contrasts with the buildings of the town of 2000 inhabitants. I did not visit, but we are certainly very far from our CHSLDs, whether contracted or not.
The coach arrived a bit ahead of its 6:15 a.m. schedule. “Are you okay in Auch?” I asked the driver, obviously messing up the pronunciation (it’s “hoche”).
“I go to Condom, and my colleague does Auch. »
I was saved from surprise because the Tour had just passed near Condom the day before. The TV helicopter even went to Montreal, 15 km to the east, to film the Gallo-Roman villa of Séviac, a 4th-century spa complex completely restored a few years ago. Pretty screwed up.
Before leaving Nogaro, the coach (2 euros) picked up two bozos-les-culottes who had obviously not slept more than me. At the smell, they had a little too much on the gnaule d’armagnac during the post-race celebrations.
Selected excerpts from their discussion, as the sun beat down in the overheated cabin:
Bike Cap: Damn, I’ve been looking for you all night! I asked you at the bistro and I left.
Black t-shirt: Damn, I want to take a pee, me…
Cap: I like the Tour de France.
T-shirt: You don’t even know who won…
Cap: Did you see a runner?
T-shirt : Rrrrien !
Cap: Have you seen your face? Even Tango will be scared. Yes, yes, he will be afraid, Tango.
T-shirt : …
Cap: Next time, I’ll take pictures. I’ll put you on social networks, you’ll see.
I swear on Jasper Philipsen’s head, it’s text, I wrote it down.
At the Auch tobacconist, I robbed the good old newspaper rack before sitting down on the terrace in front of a coffee and a croissant.
Headline from La Dépêche du Midi, the major daily newspaper in Occitania: “The world no longer recognizes us: After the yellow vests crisis and the long sequence of demonstrations against the pension reform, the riots of recent days have finished damaging the image of France in the world. »
We are far from 1943, as this plaque on the facade of the station reminds us, in memory of the first train leaving the Gers for the forced labor camps of Nazi Germany.
Probably believing myself still in the Tour bubble, I put my suitcase and bag outside the toilets. As I walked out, a short-haired lady glared at me, “Don’t leave your suitcases like that, all of a sudden, and they’re loaded, huh!” »
She led me to the platform, making sure I got on the right train, the 8:05 a.m. train to Toulouse (€14.80).
At 9:21 a.m., I disembarked at Saint-Cyprien-Arènes station, 20 minutes from the center. I hadn’t set foot in the Pink City since a whirlwind stint in 1996, the year I fell in love with the Tour.
It is less rosy in the shade of the large social housing estates of Saint-Cyprien than my memory of the Capitol and its Roman brick. But I read that the neighborhood is gentrifying.
To a young man in a jacket, I asked where I could find a taxi. “Try an Uber,” he said when he saw the trolley stop. ” Do you have a little spare time ? Take this, he goes to the airport, it will cost you less. »
He was named an honorary contributor to La Presse:
“Are you from Toulouse?” No, Parisian.
“They say you’re boring, Parisians.” That, sir, is a cliché. »
A young woman on her way to work helped me pay at the terminal, indicating that a passage cost €1.60. She apologized when she saw “€1.80” appear on the screen. “Inflation is hitting here too…”
Due to major works, the tramway stops before Toulouse-Blagnac airport. “You must exit at Guyenne-Berry. Then you go around the tram and take the 31 bus. It’s free. »
I met Amin there, who told me a bizarre story, but obviously strictly true.
Last Saturday, the programmer had made exactly the same route for a professional trip and a visit to his mother in Casablanca.
After security, he realized he no longer had his backpack. His heart took a turn: it contained two computers and two mini PCs containing his client’s valuable data. As his suitcase was already in the hold, it was impossible to turn back.
In Casablanca, he filed a complaint with the police for theft on the bus. He was told he had to sign the deposition in person and had better hurry since videotapes are usually thrown away after three days.
Amin therefore returned to Toulouse on Monday. Opening the door to his apartment, he obviously came across his bag. “When I left, I was sure I felt it in my back… It must be the fatigue, the stress, the suitcases. »
“That’s the kind of thing that could happen to me,” I defended him, telling him about my (mild) ADHD. He smiled, not looking convinced. We shook hands and, backpacking, he headed back to “Casa” for the second time in four days…
Next to a self-service piano, I came across a poster of Oscar Peterson, a souvenir of his visit to Toulouse in 2003. It is part of an ephemeral exhibition on a trompe-l’oeil wall in front of a room in renovation.
“Oscar Peterson never cheated his audience. He gave her everything and even emotion, “says the great Montreal jazz pianist, who rubs shoulders with Chick Corea, Sting and Ibrahim Ferrer, among others.
Emotion like Jonas Vingegaard, whom I found on my phone screen after a snooze all the way to Munich.
At the risk of sounding a little cracked, I followed the start of the final climb by walking towards the metro for Terminal 2. The broadcast only cut a few seconds in the heart of the tunnel, when Ineos and AG2R were at the height of the hunt on Hindley.
A slight delay in the flight to Montreal freed me up for a crucial activity in Munich: downing a frothy bock of beer. It was Philippe Cantin who introduced me to this “great tradition of international sports journalism” during a morning correspondence at the same place on our return from the Sochi Olympics.
I was in my seat when Vingegaard stunned Pogačar with a vicious start in Marie-Blanque, after a stint from his faithful companion Sepp Kuss, less than a kilometer from the summit.
It was at this precise moment that an air hostess asked me if I agreed to change places to reunite a mother and her son. Not without a certain heartbreak – and a hint of shame – I refused for professional reasons. My neighbor cleared me.
The Airbus 350-900 began to circulate towards the track three four kilometers before the end of the victorious ride of Hindley, new yellow jersey.
We were in the air when Pogačar (8th) crossed the line one minute behind Vingegaard (5th). The image froze just as the Slovenian breathed a sigh of relief. Was it really one?
I did not see the Pyrenees again, but I had a hell of a day.