And we're moving. Fans line the road. I've seen it a hundred times before, but never from this perspective.
We pass through the screaming fans, and then we're out on the open road. I watch in awe as the peloton crawls along.
At some point Kim introduces me to the mechanic in the back, Gregor. We've all been in the car together for ten minutes, and I haven't said a word. Normally I'd know their life stories by now, but I'm so floored I can barely speak.
"So, what do you know about cycling?" Kim asks me. After all, I'm just a random dude to them. I decide to set the record straight.
"Um, this is probably the greatest day of my life!"
"Okay! Great!" says Kim, and Gregor chuckles.
This breaks the ice, and we're off. We chat about the race ahead, the wind, the riders, the race radio ban, and a anything else I can think to ask them.
I ask if they normally have people riding with them. "No, only sponsors." Kim says.
The whole race is a traveling circus. The riders are all joking and appear to be having a blast. It looks like the most fun you could have on a bike.
At any given time there's at least a rider or two pissing on the side of the road. On the descents, a few do it on their bikes.
The cars are all numbered based on a drawing the night before the start. We're number 17 out of 20. Each team has two cars with the same number. One car from each team is in the first 20, then the next 20 are in the same order. This will all change tomorrow based on GC, but for now we're near the back of the first group.
We get a call from Frank on the radio, he wants his gloves. Next thing I know we're going 60 along one-lane Euro roads. Kim honks and maneuvers his way to the front of the caravan, right behind the race officials. Frank drops back to the car, and Kim hands him his gloves.
A RadioShack rider passes Frank and yells, "Pussy!"
"Hey!" says Frank and they joke a bit. Then, Frank heads back to the peloton.
Our work is done, so Kim slows down and lets the 16 cars before us pass. Occasionally a car will ride alongside us and shoot the breeze with Kim. Nothing serious, and never related to the race.
A Europecar DS slows and says something to Kim. They have a laugh and the guy drives off. Kim tells me he was joking about an old team of Kim's that wore pink kits. This was before it was cool.
The riders won't be needing any bottles today since the stage has a number of feed zones, and the weather is cool.
It's about noon, so Kim calls for a sandwich. Gregor digs one out of the lunch box and hands him a water. Then, he offers me one.
Now this is a proper Euro meal. Bread, tomato, lettuce, some sort of meat, and what appears to be a pesto sauce. I scarf it down.
Gregor and I chat for a bit. He's been wrenching for about six years. I ask about Linus and mention he got a lot of shit for his outfit at the press release. Gregor laughs and says it's just his style. He's always had it.
I mention my blog and how, in a roundabout way, it's the reason I'm there in the team car. [I blogged, João followed me on Twitter, I Tweeted him, we became friends, he found out I was going to see Paris-Nice, and then set me up with the guys at Leopard Trek.]
Next thing I know, we're stopped on the side of the road. It's our turn for a piss break. I run over to the grass, start peeing, and watch the cars pass. The other Leopard Trek car moves up and takes our spot in the first twenty cars.
I walk back to the car, and we start moving. The other Leopard Trek car drops back, and we take its place.
Thirty minutes or so pass and we hear someone has a flat. The first of the day. We race past the other cars until we see Bruno on the side of the road.