“C’est une performance” – remark of French artist upon viewing first segment of Armstrong interview with Oprah Winfrey
“C’était trop beau pour être vrai” – Comment overheard at a café
after Armstrong stripped of 7 Tour de France titles
On July 14, Bastille Day, the Tour de France will send riders up the mythical 6,000 plus-feet Mont Ventoux with its bare limestone summit heaving with crazed booze-fueled fans. It will be ninth time in its history that the Tour attacks the Ventoux, summoning up those imperishable memories of Lance Armstrong and his gripping tense battles up the Ventoux, like the one between Lance and Marco Pantani in 2000.
Two years later, Armstrong blazed up the slope to set the record for ascending Mont Ventoux, covering the 21.1km climb in 58 minutes, elapsing the time set by Pantani in 2000 by 53 seconds. In 2009, the last time the Tour took on the Ventoux, Armstrong did not crack as many had predicted; he hung fast to the leaders, finishing fifth, 41 seconds behind the stage winner.
Thursday, what the French say they knew all along exposes itself in the clear light of day when in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong confesses to using perfomance-enhancing drugs in winning his seven Tour de France titles.
For Americans living in France, the cheering on of Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France was an annual ritual heightened when the Tour took on Mont Ventoux.
How we niggled our French friends about their arrogant attitude that Armstrong doped like all the other cyclists, including several on his own team mind you, who had already tested positive.
For devotees of cycling, there was no small surprise in the denouement of the saga Armstrong-dopage – a veritable avalanche of incriminating testimonies and evidence.
Antoine Vayer, a former trainer for the cycling team Festina and a writer for Le Monde, has analyzed the times of riders in the mountain stages from 1999 to the present by calculating their power measured by watts. Vayer concluded that Armstrong’s performance on certain mountain stages was “inhuman.” In effect, Armstrong’s freakish power, which at times exceeded 430 watts, could only be achieved by doping opined Vayer. (See Le Monde article below). “Armstrong doped better than all the others,” Vader concluded.
French slang for a cyclist who dopes is a “Trider” – a portmanteau of “tricheur” (cheater) and “rider.” As one friend quipped, “trider, ca colle très bien” – trider, that sticks very well (on Armstrong).
Time to remember ’86, ’89 and ’90 when the Tour de France was won by Greg LeMond.
NYT: Armstrong Stripped of 7 Tour de France Titles here
Bedoin: Eats in the village at the foot of Mont Ventoux from which cyclists in the Tour de France begin their climb toward the the steep limestone summit.
The restaurant is in the Hotel Escapade and in the summer there is a covered terrace on the Square Portail Olivier. Do not be fooled by the plain terrace décor as the 19€ Menu Provencal for dinner is an exceptional value, superbly prepared cuisine and desserts are divine. A Menu Gourmand lists for 25€. Wine list features several quality AOC Ventoux wines.
Address: Place Portail Olivier, Bedoin (near the Tourist Office in the center of the village, Open daily, closed Thursday and Friday lunch, Tel: 04 90 65 60 21, Website
Pizzeria Chez Pierre, a spacious joint offering 60 pizza varieties and tables in outdoor garden, is at the northern edge of the village on a street leading from the Place Portail Olivier (site of the restaurant Escapade touted in a previous PVB post). Address: Chemin de la Ferraille, Bedoin, Tel. 04 90 65 95 33
Local Winery: Château Valcombe, 480 route de Valcombe, in nearby village of Saint Pierre de Vassols, Tél: 33 6 27 12 57 72, Website
Photo: Luc Guénard of the Château Valcombe