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A weekend at the Tour de France

C'est Wiggo!
C’est Wiggo!

“Mum mum mum! Australia won four gold medals today!”

“Noooo,” said the Mothership, “Australia won one gold medal.”

It was 1984 and Australia had won the 4,000 metres team pursuit at the Los Angeles Olympics.

“But there were four men on the podium! And they each had a medal!” I yelled with as much indignation as a six-year-old could muster.

“Yes,” the Mothership said patiently, “Everyone on the team gets their own medal. But it only counts as one for the tally.”

“But! What? Oh.”

Twenty years later in Scotland, the cycling ignorance continued when Gareth and I first tuned in to the Tour de France. Pelotons, yellow jerseys, sprints, domestiques, breakaways… what the bloody hell was going ON? And how was that guy winning if he didn’t cross the line first?

But after intense Googling and Tour de France for Dummies I was thoroughly addicted. Sport is all about stories, and I reckon the Tour is the most compelling tale – there’s speed, suffering, strategy, scandals, gigantic mountains, spectacular crashes, all-round Frenchyness and blokes in lycra with impossibly skinny arms. And it goes on for three weeks… pure epic!

Every year we’d watch the final stage on the Champs-Élysées from the couch and say idly, “We should go over to Paris and watch it for real!”. Yeah, yeah. It took a few happy tears at Aussie Cadel Evans’ victory last year to finally decide, Righto, no more messing about! I pounced as soon as easyjet released the July 2012 flights.

We totally lucked out with the most unfathomably bonkers brilliant year for the Brits at the Tour, which resulted in the best bloody weekend ever.

On Saturday we took a train to Chartres to see the time trial. I would have been content to merely enjoy the long-forgotten sensation of SUN on my skin, but there was also:

… The caravane publicitaire, the parade of sponsor vehicles that comes through just before the race to make a lot of noise and chuck random free stuff at the crowds…

The big yellow dude

(More experienced and physically coordinated spectators scored sweeties, hats, bags, wristbands and little cakes but we managed only a bottle of Vittel water. Gareth also got donked on the head by a Carrefour keyring, but the lady behind him caught it on the bounce.)

La Caravane

… stacks of British and Australian fans cheering like mad…

Waiting for Wiggo
More Aussies

… and of course the time trial itself, with all the dudes I’ve been cheering on the telly for so long! They’re real! To actually hear the sound of their bikes whooshing past was incredible.

Cav!
Cav!
David Millar!
David Millar!
Random bloke with a Bradley Wiggins growing out of his hat!
Random spectator with a Bradley Wiggins growing out of his hat!

Then next day we rocked up to the Champs-Élysées and lucked out with a spot on the turn in front of the Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by British fans.

Come on Wiggo old chap
Wiggo supporters

First up the publicity caravan…

My favourite float from the Caravane publicitaire

… then finally the peloton arrived! Race time!

I was about ready to spew from excitement. Or maybe it was just all the long hours stood under the baking sun. But it was the Tour of bloody France!

Allez allez! Woohoo!
Allez allez! Woohoo!

After eight tense laps finally Mark Cavendish crossed the line for yet another stage win. The crowd rejoiced.

Wiggo fans in the sun

After all the podium stuff, one by one the teams came up to the top of Champs-Elysees to pose in front of the Arc de Triomphe. Many of them took their own pictures with their phones. I can only imagine the joy and relief at finishing almost 3,000 kilometres of racing. Party time. Excellent. Unless you’ve got the Olympics in a few days.

Quite a bit of Team Sky

Highlight of the day: Wiggo kindly came over to us spectators and was dead smiley as we bellowed our congratulations!

:)

Just to cap it off, on our way back to the little apartment we were walking down a quiet street and Wes Anderson strolled by us, looking dapper in a seersucker suit!

I resisted the urge to say, “I enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom!” and/or, “BEST DAY EVER!”.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m an author, copywriter and old school blogger. I love telling stories about life and helping my clients to tell theirs. Find out more about me and how we can work together.


19 thoughts on “A weekend at the Tour de France

    1. Woohoo! It’s really addictive and you will learn about a dozen French words that are totally usless in any other context!

  1. Wow – I’m soooo jealous!!! We’ve watched the TdF for years and daydream of going over to watch in real life! My highlight was meeting Phil Liggett (love his accent and all his funny expressions) at a big bike trade show in Las Vegas a few years ago. Pretty cool for a little Canadian gal! 🙂

    So cool to see some Brits win big this year. A Cdn won the Giro d’Italia, so lots of upsets in the cycling world this year.

  2. Isn’t it just wonderful when a trip goes brilliantly! You can plan and plan til the cows come home but most of it is up to luck – weather, chance encounters, crowds etc – looks like you had lots of it this time 🙂

  3. I too was completed engrossed by the TDF this year (now completely addicted to the Olympics 🙂 ) and I think I now have a slightly better understanding of all the rules and ins and outs than previously (although a lot of it still remains a mystery…). How AWESOME that you were there to soak it all up and see Wiggo, Cav and co. up close. Loved your post and fab pics!!

  4. Great report, Shauna! I’ve just noticed in the last photo the outstretched arms and fists of the two folk in front of you: If that isn’t un hommage to Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’ then I don’t know what is…

  5. That is so cool! You got some amazing photos.

    My boyfriend is a super-nerd when it comes to TDF. He records it and watches every single minute of the whole race. (He also blogged about it this year.) I would love to go and see it live someday.

  6. My fella loves TdF as well…I’m afraid I only watch the Channel 4 highlights – and, dammit! this year I missed it all as I was working in the UK with no TV – but in 2000 we came over to France to watch the opening weekend. Great fun.
    It does look as though you were incredibly lucky with the weather, your positioning and the supporters around you. It’s stuff like that that really makes a difference…We were luckier than you with the publicity goodies, netting a giant T-mobile blowup plastic hand, some saucisson and various pens and a GAN cap!! I remember gatting a bit carried away and practically fighting a fat Belgian madame for a pen, before coming to my senses. I let go rather suddenly and she fell backwards in surprise!
    I’m glad I’ve found your blog. I’ve enjoyed reading it.

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