Freesteel Blog » We saw the Tour de France

We saw the Tour de France

Friday, July 15th, 2011 at 7:51 pm Written by:

The Tour-de-France passed through town (Laruns) today. On advice from someone who follows these things, the best place to watch it was near the top of a big climb at the end of a straight section of road.

We selected our spot 2km short of the summit of Col d’Aubisque, which meant unfortunately we had to cycle up there in the morning. The road was already lined with camper vans and french families all set out in deckchairs at ten in the morning. What a climb. Becka calculated that it took us a factor of six times longer than the Tour-de-France riders.

I set up the our small picnic on a steep verge on the other side of an electric fence (while Becka went up to the summit and back). The quiche was a disappointment.

No one told us about the “Caravan”.

This was an endless series of corporate products on processions of floats winding their way up this desolate mountain pass like an advertising vision in augmented reality. Loud music, people in harnesses dancing, stupid giant models of the product packaging, and then several extra vehicles throwing gifts out the sides. If you were lucky the gifts were edible. But most of the time they were stupid things like keyrings, newspapers, fridge magnets, crappy hats and unexplained useless bits of plastic from the bread company.

Here’s most of our haul.

Then it all went quiet for a while with crickets chirping. Official cars and vans with no obvious purpose continued to dribble up the road one at a time.

Finally a white helicopter appeared way down in the valley, obviously tracking the lead cyclist. We could barely see him among all the motorcycles and cars on the winding road. But eventually we could make him out by following where the helicopter was pointing. He came halfway towards us up the face of the slope before a second helicopter appeared. This was following the peloton, the main crush of riders.

The white helicopter tracked its way up the road getting closer. There were about six lead riders spaced out, each with their own convoy of motorbikes and cars.

At about this point I realized I didn’t know jack sh*t about this race. Who’s winning? Who’s supposed to win? Who’s good on hills? Who has the points? What are the points anyway?

I got a photo of what turned out to be today’s winner, Thor Hushovd.

On the riders who had their shirts open you could see heart monitors. They also had earpieces for radioed instructions.

The peloton passed like a rainbow on a blur of black bikes. After a few more stragglers and lots of cars, a second smaller peloton came through.

The tail car was followed by several coachloads of gendarmes. After that, the hill emptied.

We stopped to do a Via Ferrata on the way down which was more of a Via Overhanging-Ladderata. I was not impressed.

I am now packing for tomorrow.


  • 1. Andy replies at 17th July 2011, 8:31 pm :

    Just how many kids did you both elbow out of the way to get that haul. And I did tell you about the caravan!

  • 2. Martin replies at 18th July 2011, 10:49 am :

    Very well done, shot of Thor Hushovd. Was he at the front at this point? Because he was chasing down a French rider later in the stage, close to the finish in Lourdes. In an interview Thor Hushovd later said that this will probably be looked at as one of his greatest stage wins on the TdF ever.

    And the caravan: I thought you’d seen the animated film, Belleville Rendevous? It has a good caricature of all the advertising vans in front of the riders.

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