When I found out that the last stage of the Tour de France would go by just 20 km. from our village, I knew D. and I had to see it.
While I’m not “really” into biking or anything, I’ve gotten used to watching “le tour” on the TVs at the gym here – the best is when I’m running on the treadmills and watching the TV in front of me, and the cameraman is riding behind all the bikers… it lets me pretend, for a brief minute, that I’m racing through some street in the Alps or something, and not running the pace of a snail in a gym. But I digress.
Instead of fighting the crowds at the Champs-Elysées in Paris, we decided to enjoy the race from one of those rural roads you always see on TV. It took us a while to find the perfect one, but, eventually, I settled on a segment of D67 between the villages of Forges and Échouboulains, which I figured, due to their location away from cities, wouldn’t be too crowded. The place was also located off a big road, where I thought I could find parking.
It was surprisingy easy to get to, and park – given, of course, France’s general acceptance of cars parking just about anywhere on any shoulder of any road.
We walked up to an intersection and joined the lines of other people who had brought picnic baskets and umbrellas to sit and wait for the race.
First, the “publicity caravan,” came by around 11:30 a.m. This consisted mostly of cars and floats sponsored by major companies – banks, cracker brands, detergent. They all threw out “goodies” to the spectators, and I was lucky enough to get smacked with a sample of laundry detergent. Awesome.
By far and away, the most popular car was sponsored by Cochonou, a sausage company. People were practically climbing over each other to get those samples.
After this mini-parade, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) retired to the shade and pulled out their coolers. I had packed us a pasta salad and tikka egg salad sandwiches. But as we tried to see what everyone else had brought with them, we saw it was mostly just baguettes and cheese. Nothing else. Interesting.
Anyhow, after lunch, we walked back to our spots in the hot sun and waited. And waited. And watched, as a police officers tried to keep people from crossing the streets (this was sort of worrisome, especially as the race neared). Eventually, we saw a helicopter, which we all knew meant the bikers would be coming soon.
And then, around 1:45 p.m…. we heard cheers… and they were going past us. We were able to clearly see the two leaders Alberto Contador (Yellow Jersey) and Thor Hushovd (Green Jersey). And… they were chatting.
Yep, that’s right, they were talking to each other as they rode! D. had to tell me later that, at the beginning of the races, they often relax a bit. I was still surprised.
They went right past us, as D. tried to get this awesome photo, while also trying not to get run over.
And then all the others went by… and then that was that.