Un jour dans le Tour (de France)
During our road trip in France & Italy during Covid-19 times we were very close to the Tour de France. A unique opportunity to go watch the cycling heroes in real life. However, with all security measurements and us wanting to avoid big crowds, we were doubting. Certainly as the images on the televison of the 8th etappe on the col de Peyresourde showed plenty of people on the climb. It was not something we wanted to do, and also being present multiple hours up front was a too much sacrifice.
After thinking it through several times and consulting some friends, we came up with the idea to go watch the decent of the col du Marie Blanque during the 9th etappe. We could drive to the village Bielle. We arrived just after noon, but the climb was already closed for people. However a friendly police officer told us there was a small street in the village that would bring to a little higher on the climb. With our backpack with drinks & sweets we started our journey up through the tiny street up the hill. In the first hairpin we encountered about 50 people that must have had the same idea of us. We continued to a higher hairpin and there we ended up with about 15 people. So in reality we had the entire technical hairpin for ourselves.
Around an hour before the riders the famous La Caravane is passing by. It’s a bit like Carneval with crazy vehicles, loud music and candy and goodies being thrown to you. Make sure you don’t miss this part as it’s really entertaining and makes that time flies by while waiting 🙂
When you want to collect plenty of stuff, you have to split up and stand at the correct spot where they see you and make sure no people are in front of you. When they throw things, they can’t do that constantly, so that’s why positioning is really important. When you are the first in line, you make biggest chance. Also kids and dancing increases your chances. Now on the otherhand, these are gadgets, candies and often reduction coupons. We tried to focus on the candy as all the other stuff are in the end not that interesting 🙂
Finally... the Tour de France!
The tension was build for a couple of hours. After La Caravane you have more and more motards, cars passing by. They have it all well under control. Multiple cars are giving instructions to keep distance, keep kids close to you, put on face masks, …
Once the helicopters are noticable it all goes very quickly, they are coming! After some last moments of tension it was a great experience when the riders passed by. Hirschi was in the escape and had still a small advantage when he passed us. After him we got a select group of top favorites (Pogacar, Roglic, Bernal, Landa, …). A pity for him they captured him back just 2 km before the end. He still managed to finish 3rd.
Our selected hairpin was perfect. Almost no people took the effort to go up to that turn and as it was technical, the riders really had to slow down and we could get a real good view off them. I think we managed to recognise about 30 – 35 of them. And that’s about all the ones we know that are riding in this Tour de France 🙂
We are very happy we have spent the afternoon to go watch the Tour de France. I would not do it multiple days during our holiday, nor I think we will do it every year, but if you ever are close, don’t hesitate and go watch it. You won’t regret. The spectacle: building up suspension, as more and more “gendarmes” are passing by, helicopters are getting closer and finally when the biker heroes themselves are passing by.
The 6 days before we rode our bikes in the Pyrenees and did 13 cols with an elevation of +13.000 altitude meters. We do not live a professional race life, eat pizza in the evening and drink gin-tonic and wine, but still, after 6 days, you start to get a feeling what it must mean for your body.
So, yes, it’s their profession, yes, they have plenty of talent, yes, they have the best gear and governance, but nevertheless, tons of respect for these atlethes! Incredible what they do day after day during the Tour the France.