The Tour de France passed through our village for the first time yesterday, which has inspired great excitement during the build-up. All of the roads along the route have been resurfaced and relined, the verges have been cut and the village progressively decorated. People donated unwanted bicycles, which lined the hill up into the village.
I enjoy cycling, but I have never been to watch the Tour de France. Yesterday, I had no excuse, especially as it passed only 2 km from our door. We were blessed with good weather, fortunately. Last week, Météo France was predicting thunder storms, but they failed to materialise.
Yesterday’s race was Stage 6, which started from Le Lioran in Cantal. This stage was described as ‘flat’. Well, if you’re super-fit, I suppose it was, but looking at the terrain on the internet it seemed pretty hilly to me.
We were told that thousands were expected in our village to watch the race and that the surrounding roads would be closed from 10h00, so we decided not to go there. Instead, we tracked the progress of the race on the internet and then went up to the hamlet of Félines, just off the main road, to watch.
A group of neighbours was sitting in the shade, watched over by a bored-looking gendarme.
“You missed the caravan,” a neighbour said to me. The caravan is the convoy of sponsors that passes a couple of hours before the cyclists, throwing out products such as hats bearing their brand name. I wasn’t heartbroken to miss it, especially as we would then have had to wait ages for the race to come past.
The leaders were supposed to arrive around 15h45. The sound of distant helicopters grew louder and then around the bend came a couple of police motorcycles, blue lights flashing. The neighbours’ children jumped up and down and cheered, but it was one of several false alarms.
Finally, half an hour behind schedule, the motorcade encircling the two leaders rounded the bend. They go like the clappers, so you don’t get much time to get a shot. The leader is decapitated in mine, below. Once on holiday in Normandy years ago, I took what I thought was a good snap of a cycle race. When I received the developed films, all they showed was an empty stretch of road. They had already gone past.
Yesterday, I got better shots of the peloton (the pack), which arrived a few minutes later. They are so closely crammed together that it’s hard to imagine how they can manoeuvre at all. Once in the middle, I imagine you are stuck there for the rest of the race.
Shortly afterwards, a van came past bearing the sign “Fin de course.”
As a spectator sport, the Tour de France is not particularly satisfying, since it’s all over so quickly. It’s probably better to watch it on TV. But you can’t beat the ambiance that reigns when you see it live.
You might also like some posts about places along the Stage 6 route:
This post is taking part in the #AllAboutFrance linky, where you can find plenty of other fascinating posts about France.
Copyright © 2016 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved