Le Tour day 3 – stage 16

This is the blog-wrap-up of yesterday’s stage, which I wrote yesterday but had no wifi around to share it with you.  Today (stage 17) was EPIC – blog on that to follow.  Meanwhile, to catch up…

We enjoyed a restful rest day after stage 15 in the glorious Pyrennees involving strenuous mountain biking (Liz) and somewhat less strenuous wandering on one of the many local walking trails (me). We both came back with stories of stunning views in all directions, including up the valley towards the fabled Col du Tourmalet. From my walk I could see in the distance to the big switchbacks above the treeline, handily defined by an almost unbroken line of glittering campervans parked along the route, ready for the big mountain stage of Le Tour!

Stage 16 day dawned bright and sunny again. Great for spectating. Possibly less exciting if you were facing the prospect of riding over 4 huge mountains for the day! A stream of cyclists, walkers and campervans was heading up the road towards the Col du Tourmalet from early morning. Staying on the mountain itself meant we didn’t need to rush, and we eventually set out, sun-creamed and be-flagged, to walk a short way up the hill from our base in the village of Bareges.

It’s a friendly atmosphere among the crowd, with lots of smiled greetings along the way – valid in any language. The odd “Cadel Evans!” in varying accents came our way from those who recognised the Aussie flag, there was a bit of banter with the Brits, we learned what the Bretagne flag looked like by asking the girls carrying it, and in our turn informed a few people that we’re Australian (NOT English!) – “Vive L’Australie!”

We found a spot to park ourselves that met our criteria for the day – not too crowded, good views of the approaching cyclists, enough space to be off the road & safely out of the way without falling off a precipice, and a bit of shade to wait in. Win.

Text messages to parents with precise “where to look for us on the tv coverage” information all sent, we didn’t have long to wait before the caravane was upon us again. (Side note – my apologies – turns out I’ve been misspelling it. Should be ‘caravane’.) Another respectable haul of free stuff was thrown at us from the fast-moving vehicles. I think our total cap/hat stash now stands at 12. Undoubted highlight – Liz scored a cycling jersey – tossed straight to her from the PMU guys (sponsors of the sprinter’s green jersey). Not your average free stuff!

After giving a big cheer to the passing Orica GreenEdge car (and they were filming – might we be in a backstage pass video?!), we just had time for a baguette and some caravane-sponsored snacks before we were getting ready for the riders’ arrival. Mission for the day was to spot Cadel and give him a personal cheer, among general hollering for all the Aussies in the field and the GreenEdge guys in particular.

And so they came by! Having already come over one big col and being almost half way up another, the field was already quite spread out and moving along at a pace that made it really easy to see them all and pick out individuals. And they were so close to us! Once again, it was VERY exciting. We did see Cadel – still in the main yellow jersey group at that stage – and we gave him a big cheer while waving the flag madly. It was great to see most of the GreenEdge guys were still in big groups towards the front & middle of the field at that stage too. We cheered for every single rider who came past – especially those guys on their own – Allez, Allez, Allez! It was nice to see the GreenEdge car giving a bottle (and a sly boost back on to the rear of his group) to a rider from another team. Apparently it’s not all cut-throat out on the road… The lone Lotto rider, last on the course, on his own, a long way behind the closest riders and struggling badly, received an especially big cheer from all the spectators on our patch. I wonder if he made it to the finish?

After the ‘Fin de la course’ van went by, everyone hopped in their cars or on their bikes and made off down the mountain again. It’s surprising how fast people disappear after the race passes! All those keen cyclists who had huffed and puffed their way up the mountain earlier received their reward and came whizzing down again with a variety of flags, souvenir merchandise and caravane paraphenalia strapped to their backs and flapping in the wind.
We walked back down to Bareges and found a handy pub in which to watch the rest of the day’s stage. Easy to pick the variety of nationalities present as cheers and groans variously arose from the crowd for Voekler’s attack, Cadel’s difficulties, Nibali’s attack, Wiggins & Froome’s response, Voekler’s victory, and the Euskatel rider taking advantage of Vinikourov’s pedal clip issue to come in 3rd. All the frenchies very excited once again, and some long faces amongst the Australians.

Despite Cadel losing more time (AND my sunnies broke – bad day or what?!), we thoroughly enjoyed another super day out watching the travelling circus that is Le Tour.

(Apologies again for no photos – picture 2 aussie girls holding a large flag between them and yelling madly as colourfully clad cyclists pass by on a steep hill… got it?  So who needs photos?)

Edit – pics!

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One thought on “Le Tour day 3 – stage 16

  1. Uncle Rit

    Thoroughly enjoyed your various blogs. If you ever get tired of electrical engineering, we are sure you could make a comfortable living as a travel writer.
    Rit and Daphne

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