Here is the first of many signs I'll live by for the next three weeks. Navigating the Tour is all about following the arrows, provided that the graveyard shift workers who post them the night before were on their game. Neon orange points you off the highway toward the finish; neon green indicates the course; this bi-colored number points scribes to the press work rooms near the finish lines. Here in Compiegne at the finish of Stage 3, we're working in a gym with the basketball backboards pushed up toward the ceiling and that sickly yellow lighting that makes prep sports photographers crazy.
Speaking of graveyards, when I found the neon green signs and began following them like Hansel and Gretel followed bread crumbs, I cringed. This finish had a sharp left, a sharp right and another sharp left in the final 1.5 K, and part of that stretch was across the bread-box-sized cobblestones called pave (pah-vay). They're made for oxcarts, not road bikes. My four-door Peugeot didn't like them much either. This is actually the start of the Paris-Roubaix race famous for its killer pave. I anticipated carnage for the second straight day.
There's a lot of debate about whether the peloton is cleaning up its act. I can definitively say that the press corps is cleaner, at least where nicotine is concerned. (Don't ask about wine.) Far fewer smokers polluting the workplace than there used to be. France is set to adopt a new anti-smoking law in restaurants next year, which I never thought I'd see in my lifetime.
Just watched the finish and saw the bulk of the peloton sit up and take that pave pretttyyy sloooowwww (think Robin Williams' old routine about Quaaludes) before picking it up again for the final sprint. No casualties. Interesting, to put it mildly, that yellow jersey-wearer Fabian Cancellara got it together for the stage win. He was caught up in yesterday's big crash and was looking like a possible non-starter last night. Then again, he won Paris-Roubaix last year, so maybe a couple hundred yards of clattering was no big deal.