Stage 8: One man’s mission to throw cold water on the Tour

He was at one point water boy, the next a shower attendant, and at all times permanently on call. He was also arguably the unsung hero of Stage 8.

I’m not sure what a typical morning looks like for the water boy. For sure he climbs into leathers and overalls while cyclists climb into Lycra. He may well spend the morning checking over his Kawasaki to ensure it’s in working order. All before loading up bidons onto the, err… things attached to the back of his bike. These are the courtesy bottles, provided by a race sponsor, and available to any rider up the road, away from his team car, and in danger of turning to dust in the July heat.

That made him the hardest working rider in the race on stage 8, as he darted back and forth between breakaways and his mother ship, on terrain that would put his horsepower, if not his legs exactly, to the test.

He also had a knack for interpreting exactly when and where he was needed.

Michael Valgren needed only to waggle his hand like a telephone to summon refreshments

There was Astana rider Michael Valgren for example, who as he closed the gap on the lead group, having chasing, tongue out, for some time. He made a gesture with his hand – rather like hinting to someone that the phone was ringing – which brought an acceleration from the water boy, who twigged he was needed and, dodging official cars arrived to hand him a bottle.

Then there was the lead group itself, half way up the Montee de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes. Here he turned Turkish Bath attendant, as riders such as Warren Barguil, Robert Gesink, and Lilian Calmejane helped themselves to bottles and poured the contents over their heads as the mountain slapped them around.

Bath time for Robert Gesink, and others

In hindsight Calmejane might have done well to pour more down his throat than down his back. It was to be his day but the cramp he suffered 5km from the finish nearly made it a less than perfect one as his legs ground to a halt on a 9 per cent gradient. But he got there for what was a memorable win.

Lilian Calmejane, with skin hydrated, finds his legs aren’t with 5km to go

I’m not sure what a typical evening looks like for the water boy. But on this occasion it might have been a raised glass of something to a job well done. Perhaps a raised water bottle, if he happens to be a romantic.

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