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Bringing the Tour to the People

July 17th, 2021 · 1 Comment · France, Sports, tourism, Uncategorized

We decided last week we would try to catch a bit of the Tour de France, given that we had visitors from SoCal in town.

And, happily, this was one of those random years when the guys who stake out the world’s greatest bike race … drew a line on a map that put the race one village away from ours.

A big part of the Tour de France experience is its Chamber of Commerce/Tourist Board appeal. This event isn’t just for showing who is the hottest racer on two wheels … it’s a three-week paean to La Belle France.

Quaint villages. Cows chewing their cuds. Families setting out picnics in the grass. Bright yellow sunflowers here, there and everywhere. The riot of color and energy that is the peleton, blasting from one picturesque locale to the next, sometimes up the slope of a mountain that seems too steep to climb.

And this time, it was coming a half-hour’s walk from our town.

It was a final-hour decision to get up from the lunch table and take a brisk walk up a hill, through vineyard after vineyard, and into the edge of the town of Fontes.

People were driving across back roads to see the race come through. We stayed out of their way and just kept walking. I got so enthused I left the other three behind to scout out ahead the best viewing spot possible .

The hard-core fans are those who get there hours early in their RVs, carrying picnic baskets. The rest of us sidle up to the edge of the road about 15 minutes before the heavy action broke out. All things considered, we had a pretty good vantage point. When the serious fans had been laying out “pique-niques”, some of us were still in bed.

I got nearly to the city limits when I looked through the vines and saw the bridge that would bring the cyclists into town.

I waved back at the others and made dramatic pointing gestures, through the vines, and within a few minutes we were standing on a berm along with several dozen others.

It was a good spot. The peleton would be squeezed a bit by the bridge, and then make a hard, banking right turn onto the “main” road.

For those who are satisfied with a glance at the riders … well, here they come!

We knew the riders were coming soon, because five helicopters were overhead and the steady surge of motor vehicles driving just ahead of the pack was a constant reminder that we were ready for our closeups.

The Tour de France can be taken in small doses, if you prefer. Some think it’s too long, but others like the adrenaline rush of seeing the riders turn a corner a few feet away and rocket at us.

At the turn, one of the three riders nursing a small breakaway, decided he would like to see if he could cook off the two other front-runners. The fans cheered and waved flags.

About two minutes later, here came the rest of the riders, packed impossibly tight, leaving us to wonder how there is not a major crash on every stage.

And, suddenly, the race was gone. The final back-marker passed us, and the whirring noise of the scores of bikes disappeared. Like someone turning off the lights on a bunch of cicadas.

“That,” said one of our visitors, “was cool.”

It likely will be several years before the peleton passes so close to our village. France is a big country, and organizers of the race make sure everyone gets their chance to show off their towns — from Normandy to the Alps to the Cote d’Azur.

Now that we know how easy it can be … maybe we will be standing on the hill five or six years hence to watch the cyclists, on their next visit, and agree it was fun as we hike back to our town.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Doug // Jul 17, 2021 at 7:21 PM

    I’ve been hooked on Le Tour for many years. No doubt the fabulous French scenery is as big a star as any of the riders. This year’s edition has been great entertainment. The only drawback for us on the West Coast is having to get up very early to watch the live action.

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