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We are lucky enough to travel a lot and see a lot of amazing things in this world. Both Jeff and I have spent our time finding events and those once in a lifetime opportunities to see and do but I have to say that the Tour de France has to be one of the most impressive, different and fun for many reasons. We decided to see the Tour in the French countryside about two and a half hours from where we live. Stage 8 was from Tomblaine which is part of the city of Nancy, to Gérardmer la Mauselaine. The Tour de France website (www.letour.com) is great for planning your viewing spot as it has very detailed times as to when the cyclists will be passing through certain areas.

We used several maps and the time table to determine where we would watch the cyclists and Le Grand Caravan go by. (more on the caravan shortly). Using Google Earth we could see some areas that appeared to have access roads to them that wouldn’t be on the route- we needed a way to get there once the roads were closed because we couldn’t find online what time the roads would be closing, turns out it was about 2 hours prior to the Caravan going by. Jeff did a great job plotting out farm roads we could take if needed; luckily for us and our Volkswagen, we were able to drive up the route the cyclists would be taking at 10:15am still to our spot, a little town called Anthelupt. We spotted a little town store set up with a grill outside and small parking areas on the road so we took the last spot in one and set up for the day! My qualifications of bathroom access and food were met so I was quite pleased. We were pretty much the only non-townsfolk that we saw and certainly the only English speakers or Americans but we found everyone to be very friendly. The store owner and family were more than happy to let us use their restrooms (and even at the end of the event it was spotlessly clean.

Cookout/Store where we set up to watch

Cookout/Store where we set up to watch

We walked around the area of the road we were in before the Caravan started, the grill was being set up for food but the real party seemed to take place between the Caravan and the Race passing by. That was when the food was grilled and everyone was really eating and walking around the area. The other restaurant in Anthelupt also had a set up with a grill and there was even a TV satellite vehicle stationed there for the broadcast with a small TV set up so we were able to watch the cyclists start the stage at 1:30.

France 23 Sport Channel truck

France 23 Sport Channel truck

Le Grande Caravan

The Caravan gets its own section of this blog because wow, we had no idea what to expect. We hadn’t heard of it previously but saw some information on it on the website for the race as well as on another blog that we follow which had pictures from the stage two days prior. We thought, ok it is a parade of sponsors that goes by before the cyclists. Interesting. We couldn’t however figure out how they would stay two hours ahead of the riders. The riders are going very fast, 45kph and more at times, and so how was this scheduled to remain two hours ahead? Answer: it flies! It was the funniest, more entertaining thing I have seen in a long time. It is 165 vehicles or floats with about 4 or 5 for each company that is involved. They have people literally strapped or bungeed into the vehicles or floats as they fly past you down the road blaring music, dancing, and sometimes speaking on microphones. (In French of course so I can’t tell you what they were saying). Some of the vehicles are throwing small items like frisbees or food packages as they pass. In true French style one was even passing out small packages of salami type meat. I didn’t eat it but Jeff enjoyed it.

Before the caravan passes there are other vehicles passing out newspapers about the Tour and also merchandise vehicles where you can purchase a t-shirt, hat or umbrella. I got a lovely hat out of the deal for only 5 Euros.

P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries

Mickey Journel

Mickey Journal

Fruit Drink Float

Fruit Drink Float

The float passing out meat samples...

The float passing out meat samples…

McCain Potato Car

McCain Potato Car

Once the Caravan passed by it was about 12:30 and we were set to see the cyclists at 2pm per the schedule. The roads remained closed so we joined everyone and had some lunch and walked around the area again. As it got closer to 2pm people started gathering nearer the edge of the roads and the local police kept people away from the edge of the road. We started to see flashing lights down the road and most strikingly helicopters. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but there were 5 helicopters following the riders! It was crazy to see them circling in a dance above our heads as the cyclists approached.

Now, we knew they would be flying by. We were near the beginning of the stage, only 30 minutes in, so the leader was right with the Peloton (main group, I didn’t know what this was until last week either). All of a sudden he was next to me. I mean seriously next to me, like I could have touched him with my hand easily. I backed up a little, we had Indi in her stroller behind us for safety and I moved back a little closer to her because wow. It strikes me how the cyclists must feel, racing through France with people in their face! Right after the leader was the peloton and then the following team vehicles. It was all done within a matter of probably two minutes.

Peloton

Peloton

After the procession of vehicles following went by everyone packed up and headed to their cars. We weren’t sure if people would hang around and wait for the roads to open, but no, everyone packed up and the road was open within a matter of probably 15 minutes! Impressive!

Team chase cars with extra bikes and supplies

Team chase cars with extra bikes and supplies

I must say, we both walked away from this saying, wow that was really cool. We hadn’t laughed that much at a sporting event probably ever. If you have the chance to see the Tour de France, do it – and I highly recommend finding a small town and just joining the locals, they know the best spots!

 

 

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