Le Tour du Tour – day 2 (stage 15)

After the excitement of being at the finish line for our first tour stage, we opted for a more relaxed spot on the stage 15 route and set off into the glorious french country-side.

To get there, we hired a car.  (I almost scored a huge Europcar flag from the guy in the car rental office when I told him I was going to watch Le Tour, but apparently they keep them for small children.  Given that the flag would be larger than most small children I’d be interested to see how that works in practice.)

After a quick prayer for safety, several deep breaths and a couple of practice laps around the car park, we headed out from Toulouse for my first ever driving-on-the-other-side-of-the-road experience.   I was very glad to have Liz along for the ride, as she fearlessly grappled with the sat-nav and the very large paper map, and gave occasional patient reminders that it might be a better idea to drive on the right-hand side.  She also made a very impressive phone call in french to our accommodation for the evening to confirm our arrival and check some details.  Driving on the right and french phone calls – huge personal victories all round!  Go team!

Passing fields of sunflowers, stunning views over checkerboard rolling hills, picturesque french country villages and mediaeval towns, we made it without incident to the little town of Marciac, drove along the yet-to-be-closed roads the riders would later use, and found ourselves a nice little picnic spot under shady trees on the first long slow rise after the town.

With not so many hours to wait, a shady spot to sit, lovely country views, a quality french picnic lunch, and far fewer people around jostling for position, it was a very pleasant afternoon!  Very soon anticipation started to build… more official cars and motorbikes cruised past, the official merchandise vans came by, as did the distributors of the daily tour caravanne newspaper.

Then the caravanne!  When we saw them coming in to the finish area of stage 14, it was a slow speed procession… not so out along the route!  They fly along, and the (harnessed-in) merchandise distributors in the back of cars and vans and trucks have some pretty impressive and accurate high-speed throwing skills.  We ended up with quite a haul including several caps, keyrings, large green hands, inflatable pillows, washing detergent, a fake foam phone, cigarette pouches, comic books, quite a variety of snacks and confectionary, vouchers we won’t use, and a useful folding bag into which we stuffed all the stuff.  The amount of waste that this event must generate is mind-boggling!

Thus fortified, we spent the next hour or so snacking on our free food and watching the ever increasing stream of official vehicles, media, gendarmes, team cars, VIPs…  As it happened, we ended up being right on the end of the feed zone, so I got to say hi to the Orica Greenedge guys when I wandered down the road to check out the 5 helicopters which had just landed in the hay-bale-spotted field, and the truck full of waving children – I’m sure they would have featured in the television coverage!

And finally, the race appeared!  We had a great view of them approaching up the hill from the town.  First the break of 6 (along with Claire the time gap girl on her yellow motorbike!), then the bunch about 10 minutes later, rolling fairly peacefully with Sky on the front as usual.  As they were going slowly, and we were right there, we could see them well and pick out faces and individuals… so exciting!  We cheered loudly for all the aussies, GreenEdge and BMC and waved our big flag between us.  There were more aussie flags further up the hill so hopefully they all felt well encouraged on our little stretch.  Liz scored an FDJ water bottle thrown out of the peloton, and we got a wave from Matt White & co in the GreenEdge car as they went past behind the pack – woohoo!

We thought it was over, but a few minutes later there was one more small group including Brett Lancaster.  Only found out later that these were the guys who had abandoned that day.  Not having much news access here, still not sure why.  Hope they are all ok.

Pretty stoked once again with our tour experience for the day, we hopped back in the car and drove into the spectacular Pyrennean mountain country, following part of the route the guys will ride on stage 16.  We’re staying part way up the route du Tourmalet, in a tiny village called Bareges.  The roads are scary to drive up – I can’t even imagine doing it on a bike (although there are plenty of amateurs doing just that!)

After 2 days of tour chasing, we’re very glad of a rest day, particularly in such a beautiful part of the world.  Looking forward to watching Le Tour hit the big mountains next!!

(PS – sorry no pics today – limitations of wifi connection.  Hope to come back and add some later.)

Edit – pics added!

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One thought on “Le Tour du Tour – day 2 (stage 15)

  1. Mum

    Yet another fabulous travelogue!! Sounds fantastic Anna and it certainly is lucky that you have Liz to assist with navigation and RH driving tips!
    I hope your little car was big enough to cope with all the loot that was hurled at you from the caravanne. I can just picture you both sitting in a beautiful French field, on a beautiful day, munching on all the free goodies,and then a complete change of pace as Le Tour rides by!

    Happy rest day!

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