D…E…T…O…X… Belinda laid out the letters slowly. Almost as if she had no idea what impact it would have on the game. Triple word and triple letter for placement of the X. 135 points in a single move. It was a killer blow. ‘We’re all playing for second now’, Jase stated in a very matter-of-fact way as he passed over the leader’s yellow hat.
It was so good to see Belinda and Jase again. Maybe I miss home a little more than I thought, even if it did mean getting thrashed at Scrabble. From the moment we drove up and saw them waving down at us from the balcony of our alpine apartment in Megève in the French Alps we were back in a well-worn groove of weekends away. And, whether I like or not, being thrashed at Scrabble is nothing new for me. Emma’s been beating me since 1996. Not one win in 20 years…
Best not to dwell on it. The reason Belinda got the yellow hat was because it seemed in keeping with the Tour de France which had been going on just outside our front door all day. Jase even renamed us all after Tour riders. Emma was Froome (she was favourite to win), Belinda was Quintana, Jase was Vincenzo and I was Bling (Michael Mathew’s – Canberra rider). Quintana’s 135 point move was an unexpected upset. No one saw it coming, except maybe Belinda.
Of course that’s not what happened in the real tour. Chris Froome came streaking past us at just shy of 80km/hr as we lined the barriers on the road in front of our apartment for the individual time trial. As tour leader he was the last rider on the course and he extended his lead by winning that day’s stage.
‘That’s my BFF’ Abby told us all happily, once, or twice or perhaps even thrice. I was captivated. Abby has become a most endearing young lady, readily and happily holding court during proceedings each day. One got a sense Belinda, Jase and Zoe have seen it all before. I was amused. Them, maybe not quite so much.
We had three days of tour fun. The individual time trial was the best because it lasts all day, with the caravan coming through around 10.00 and then riders every two the three minutes from 11.00am ‘til nearly 5.30pm. We alternated lining the barriers and whipping our heads around so fast they almost fell off with hanging out in the living room of our apartment and watching on television that which was happening ten metres away.
Watching the peloton come through on route from somewhere to somewhere else was also fun. Which is odd because we’re talking about all of 10 seconds entertainment. It’s that quick from when you spot the riders to when they’ve whizzed past and are gone. The excitement builds though for a couple of minutes before that as the buzz from the chopper following the group gets louder and louder.
The really interesting bit though is why is it fun waiting for the hour and half sitting on the side of the road before that? We all thought it was fun. None of the kids moaned or complained, in fact they were all eager and excited. The hundreds of other people lining the street must have felt the same. I guess the tour has become so big, so well-known with such a reputation that people are just happy to be part of it.
That, and you get free stuff! Everyone loves free stuff. No really they do. It’s almost comical watching people scramble to pick up the worthless advertising guff flung from the sponsors caravan which passes by about an hour before the riders themselves. That’s where we got the yellow leaders hat for the evening Scrabble match. It was one of a total of 14 which the eight of us collected in addition to a similar number of the green ‘Skoda’ bucket hats and one Cochanou salami hat which Emma took a real shine to.
It’s a triumph of the free market although I have a strong suspicion 90 per cent of it will end up in landfill within a matter of weeks. Listen to me being the tour grinch! It really is fun, especially dodging the free stuff thrown by inexperienced caravan flingers (I don’t know what else to call them?). Most of the stuff gets flung at your feet but enough comes straight at your head to make you feel like a ninja, and laugh a little at the misfortune of others, whom you don’t know, who don’t move quite so quick.
Of course no weekend away with Belinda and Jase is complete without running. Which was good and bad given our lack of it over the last 6 months. Belinda dragged me out three mornings in a row somewhere between 7 and 8 am. It was almost like getting up to go to work! Only not really. Ok not at all…
Out the front door we went on the first morning and up and up we went after that. The thing about hanging out in a French ski village set up to rival Chamonix and St Moritz is the lack of flat terrain. Belinda was determined to follow a particular path she’d found on the internet but we only had a slightly dodgy map to help navigate us along. Long story short, we got lost somewhere past the golf course and ended up doing laps of the same set of streets in the pouring rain wondering why nothing looked the same each time we ran past.
Meanwhile, Jase who just ran out the front door and followed his nose managed to stumble across our intended path, so on the second morning we tried again. And failed again. The mist closed in after running uphill without respite for 30 minutes. Belinda and I parted ways. She was determined to find the route. I, on the other hand, was determined not to run uphill anymore and headed for home. Belinda showed up two hours later, but didn’t find the track.
On the third morning Belinda abdicated all responsibility for route finding and we ran up the other side of the valley for about 45 minutes. After clearing the forest, we turned around and to our great surprise and pleasure there was Mt Blanc, the tallest mountain in western Europe. Turns out we’d been staying right at its base but couldn’t see past the foothills! We stood and admired and then we ran home, which just goes to show sometimes it’s best not think too hard about where you’re going – metaphorically speaking of course.
It was back to the Scrabble board on our last evening in Megève. Like a sprint rider in Le Tour, I never had a chance in the General Classifications, but I did win a stage (a round) and managed to hold on to the yellow hat for three rounds after that. It was enough to avoid embarrassment, but Froome (Emma) got me before long. So did Quintana, and Vincenzo come to think of it. It’s a good thing Froome is my BFF.