I’m not a bike fan. I don’t spend hours watching the tour like my Mother can. But I can see a kind of romance in someone battling for weeks in beautiful terrain. And if you don’t finish a day you fail the whole. It’s harsh, yet beautiful.
So my mother suggested going to see it for real. And this is where I am right now, driving back from a very stormy day in Monbazillac, the day I saw the tour.
My thoughts? It’s strange. Almost gladiatorial. Imagine standing by a curve in the road full of placards, standing shoulder to shoulder to family and other people.
Hours waiting so you have a good spot. I even got a yellow t-shirt, hat and umbrella.
Suddenly riders pass by. People go wild but this isn’t the tour, it’s the juniors, putting themselves through the same hardship.
One falls off and needs a wheel change. His partner comes back and pulls him up the road to get back in the race. Perhaps a minute lost, but his friend saved. A noble moment.
Quiet and more time passes. I think I can hear music in the distance, slowly coming closer. People get up screaming and waving. It’s what is known as the caravan. The first caravan, well a car that has been converted. It’s like a highly expensive mobile Blackpool illuminations without the tac.
Then a van with dancers that throw freebies. And on it goes. Car after car for about forty minutes.
Dancers, music, fairy tale Haribo thrown at you and a water cannon deflected by my trusty Tour De France umbrella that I shared with my new friend on my right. The water cannon would have been welcome had it not been a recent storm, which reappeared moments later with thunder.
Then the roads went quiet. A sign was erected, inspected. An hour past. The police bikes came by faster and faster. A huge street cleaner drives through. A helicopter can be heard in the distance, some people mutter.
Above from behind the trees the camera helicopter performs an arc over us, its following the bikes so they must be close. Everyone stands. Some start banging on the placards. I wonder if this is how gladiators feel before they walk into the ring. The helicopter arcs again, right overhead. There is a thunder from people banging and cheering in the distance. The sound increasing with every moment. I worry my heart at the tender age of 36 will give. I feel what everyone feels, we almost all think as one, the chants, the banging, I feel woozy. 6 police bikes, mean looking, so mean each maybe primed to explode on anyone stupid enough to walk into the road. Then the first rider, I miss him fumbling with my camera. The next few I get pics of. They ride so fast with cars and motorbikes swerving around them, completely in the zone.
After a while I stop taking pictures, I’m missing all the action and it reminds me of the moment in Walter Mitty when he doesn’t take the photo. I just see the pain of them pushing up the wet hill. Face contorted in agony.
Mum says Nibali still has the yellow jersey. Then the thundering quietens. I can tell there is a lot less than when we left to come to France three days ago. I feel in awe of them. The few left, struggling yet battling. My pictures don’t do justice to the horrendous weather and the mighty hill we stood upon that they had to conquer. France certainly knows how to hold a race.
On the way back we see the caravans on the back of Lorries been driven to the next location. And a final thought. These people are like El A Vators. Strongest and bravest. Fighting hard for the prize. It’s noble.
Its time to pull out my bike from the wreckage of the garden shed, and take a ride down the prom.