Prompted by “The 1970’s Diet” blog , I thought I would add my views on the “Le Tour”, and I have to agree with 197o’s Diet – it’s great.
I did not know much about it until Husband introduced me to it – the individuals, the teams, the domestiques, the scandals. I now love it. In 2004 we followed the tour in a Honda Accord Estate, which thankfully had a great sat nav. There were three main highlights, the Alps d’Huez time trial, Col de Madeleine and the finish.
The Alpe d’Huez has 21 z-bends (hairpin bends) on it and, as a time trial, the cyclists would be cycling individually. The general rule with Le Tour, is that the Dutch arrive days ahead in their huge caravans, with satellite TV and write all over the road, and often turn everything orange. The Germans are next, with the French, then rest of the world, and finally the Brits. So it was that we were almost last, and found last spot on the mountain-side to park up. We had wine and time, and sat back watching the club cyclists take around one hour 30 mins to get from the bottom to the top (as they told us when they stopped for a mug of vino on the way down). However, when the pros went through the next day, Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich, only took a mere 38 mins or so! There was not much in the way of “facilities”, but the atmosphere was electric and the experience was worth the occasional hardship.
From there, another great place was the lower slopes of the Col de Madeleine. Picture a beautiful alpine hillside with a few Z-bends in amongst pastureland. The riders were cycling up the hill, so all we had to do was to sit back and wait, until we could see them coming. After many days of traveling (and finding showers that were only for men!) we found the Col de Madeleine. We parked up, opened up the boot, and made ourselves eggy bread and coffee – pure luxury. We had many an envious look from others (including the French) and sat back, read a book and waited for Le Tour.
And so to Paris. We treated ourselves to a hotel for a couple of nights, after sleeping in the car and camping for a week, we’d earned it. On the final day of Le Tour we headed to the Champs-Élysées and found a small piece of concrete to sit on. Seven hours later we headed to a cafe for a beer – a very expensive beer. That said, it was amazing. Lance Armstrong won for the 6th time and we happened to be next to a loud Texan with a flag, so when the teams were doing their lap of honour, the noisy Texan got Lance’s attention, and we got this photo….
In essence, these boys are mad, they spends hours, days, months cycling and getting fit, when not competing. During Le Tour alone, they spend three weeks, with two rest days, cycling an average of 120 miles a day. Why – I have no idea. From my armchair it’s amazing, impressive and an element of madness. It is not something I could ever achieve. If you want to know more, from a novice point of view, I suggest “French Revolution” by Tim Moore – an ordinary bloke who decides to cycle the tour.
This year we’ll be shouting “come on Sky” which is a predominantly British team, including Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.