Thursday, July 24, 2014

Riding to the Tour - Part 5

Another day at the Tour.

It started cloudy and never got much much better, though I still managed to get sun burn on those parts I hadn't covered. I have burnt ankles.

What a day though. We left the hotel and made our way past the bottom of today's final climb climbing the final descent of the race. At the top of the Col de Tourmalet weset up shop right by the King of the Mountains line.

Pre-race life on the Tourmalet
Sat on the wall above the road we watched the Tour world go by.
Recreational cyclists came and went, most wanting to have their photo taken at the top; gendarmes shouted at them and told them not to lean their bikes against the advertising hoardings. Crowds gathered outside the café, the caravane came and went in a barrage of disposable joy and families sat and waited.

Waiting is a major part of watching bicycle races. And we waited.

The distant cloud which had hung around over the bottom of the valley rolled in and became fog and we froze. Our leathers, chained to the bikes down the mountain, became objects of desire. I shivered.

Then Bernard Hinault arrived in his Skoda. And team cars. Soigneurs spread out on the road beneath us, their bags filled with bottles and newspapers.

The rider experience of the descent must have been a contrast from the ascent. They tumbled down the mountain alone, like a club run but with a few cars following, there were few people to cheer on one of the most dramatic parts of the race.

Tumbling down the mountain alone
Once the race was gone, we rode our bikes through pedestrians and cycles, all following their heroes through the beautiful wilderness. We fought with traffic and humidity, then drank beer, ate, chatted with the waiter and went to bed happy.

Who did win Stage 18?

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