RAGT's final glorious charge into gay Paree


Clovis Lark

Stage 21

The ruination of all perpetual motion machines is when they inevitably
stop. And, en fin, so too the churning spokes of the RAGT retinue finally
slowed and stopped. It was a day for graciousness, as they let off the
brakes for one day to allow Domina Vacanze and US Postal, one of the true
nonentities of the competition to battle for team honors. In the end, it
wasn't even close, the glue in the brake calipers of Domina Vacanze
thoroughly defeating the American interlopers. The day was not just for
hard fighting, unlike the previous 3 weeks. It was a day for a moment's
reflection. As they bid au revoir to the city of Victor Hugo and headed
toward the cathedral of his most famous misshapen hero, RAGT showed it was
capable of joviality, camaraderie. Perhaps most magnanimous, they allowed
their team director to offer the peloton some of their recovery drink
stock via Director LeBlanc's auto. Director Jean-Luc Jonrond was
uncharacteristically candid as he remarked that everyone had wondered what
secrets RAGT and Veuve Clicot had hidden in their elixir that had
destroyed the field in the team competition. Indeed, the effect was so
pronounced that when cameras turned on the man in the banana shirt and
asked him to count to ten, he was only able to get to six, using his
fingers and fumbling when forced to employ his left hand. No doubt, the
embarrassing moment added to the concerns as to whether RAGT's recovery
drink was up to UCI specifications. Nonetheless, seeing the Posties
suddenly contending for stage honors following meager sips of this
seemingly magical concoction, nobody can deny that it is effective! And
speaking of specifications, what were those Posties thinking? Not content
with being shackled with the canary t-shirt, they decided to illegally
modify their outfits, secretly flying in Martha Stewart's latest insult,
hand decorations in gold leaf! This miserable display was surely in bad
taste, for they must have known they would be parading 8 times later in
the day past the gleaming gold effigy of Jean d'Arc, which could only make
their outfits' modifications look tawdry. And with Postal staying out on
the Champs Elysees 38 seconds longer than all but one team, this foolish
change was surely rubbed in the faces of all who lined the streets.

But there was some minor racing during the course of the day as well. An
hour 11 minute lead over the field at the start allowed RAGT some freedom
to settle some small scores. First off, RAGT showed that they controlled
the peloton. Since their patron had fallen short and had already no
chance at the Lanterne Rouge, they manipulated the peloton with clever
moves. Tiring of the attempts of other teams to dilute the spotlight on
them by dallying, RAGT brazenly sent one of its riders up the road.
Amazingly, the other teams lost their heads and chased. It was only later
that they realized they had been taken for fools and RAGT was again
comfortably in the rear. Then Jean Luc saved his best for last: the
humiliation of Jimmy Casper, leader for the Lanterne Rouge. As discussed
yesterday, mediocre time trialing by Frederic Finot had made Casper a
virtual lock for this. However, Sebastien Joly might still have a chance.
Thus, Casper was duped into the final sprint, while Joly was permitted by
RAGT to trail back among the elite. The result, a stunning loss of over 2
and a half minutes for Casper. Nothing to shake his ultimate triumph, but
certainly he'll be working hard for weeks removing the tarnish from his

But enough of the cynical side of sport! There is a special feeling when
the riders sprint into Paris down the Champs Elysees. As they make that
first turn and one finally sees Jan Ullrich, Jens Voigt, and Andreas
Kloeden pedaling in the magnificent shade of those beautiful trees, one
wonders whether they were planted just for them!

Following the closing ceremonies, we were invited to the RAGT team
celebration. There were quite a few local women at the gay event who
never appeared on the podia, but who were extremely fond of declaring
"Oui, oui!" As is well known RAGT had, in addition to a large stock of
baked beans and Veuve Clicot, but 5000 Euros for this event, and it became
clear that party supplies were running short. This threatened the
continued presence of the women whose inclination to declare "Oui, oui"
was drying up. Thus the hat was passed around and a couple team members
went looking for additional partying materiel. Luckily, they spotted Jan
Ullrich, still luxuriating under a splendid elm on the street and he
agreed to go in search of some recreational drugs for a nominal
honorarium. As he sped off on his bicycle, Greg Lemond, who happened to
be passing by, wagged his head disapprovingly at how easily Ullrich was
persuaded to help, muttering:

"On peut transformer un etalon en une mule"

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