Jumped on the train from Paris to Chartres for the final ‘Contre la Montre’ of this tour – the stage 19 individual time trial. The caravane again proved helpful for course location – this time I just followed the noise!
I wandered away from the town centre to a pleasantly uncrowded spot just over 3km from the finish on a long straight incline, made friends with the group of genial old locals who had installed themselves in the bar across the road for the day and who thought I should have been more excited that the first ever englishman was about to win the tour, teamed up with a passing Aussie called Greg who had a large camera and the start order saved on his phone, and settled in to wait for the riders to appear.
And now I understand why it’s so frustrating watching an ITT on television. Very few of the riders had any press following them on the road. There were no helicopters, and really only the last 5 guys had a motorbike camera with them. For the bulk of the field, that means there is probably only a camera on them as they leave the start and arrive at the finish. It must be nightmarish for the tv guys to put the footage together coherently, and then even harder to commentate on!
It was pretty good being in one spot on the side of the road though, as we got to see each rider come past individually over the course of the afternoon. All kinds of interesting vehicles had been pressed into service to follow the riders – particularly the early guys at the lower end of the field. The Mavic spares cars, several official skodas, some nameless rentals, and the odd caravane sponsor’s car came by bearing the riders’ names with the official team cars reserved for the top riders. Also surprising was the number of riders being followed by a car without any spares on board – either bikes or wheels. Obviously, for many, this wasn’t a high pressure stage.
The helpful old guys over the road, sporting a variety of free caravane hats and consulting the newspaper for the start order, made sure I was informed when any notable french riders were approaching, and also when any Australians were on their way. I enjoyed watching them get very excited for their french heroes (Voekler – always gets the loudest cheer from the french fans), and in turn they laughed at me waving my flag and shouting shamelessly for all the aussies.
In between times, we all cheered for everyone else (Allez Allez!), marvelled at the shiny Astana time trial suits, tried to work out who had caught and overtaken whom, and generally passed a pleasantly lazy afternoon in another picturesque french streetscape.
Then finally, the top guys appeared. Richie Porte, rampaging. Tejay having overtaken Cadel. Froome looking strong… and a far smaller gap than we had expected to Wiggins in the yellow, followed by all the press motos that had been missing earlier, and powering to an unequivocal win. Impressive.
Scored seats on the packed train back to Paris in my own moment of victory for the day. All set for the grand finale the following day – Stage 20 on the Champs-Elysees!
We have been loving all your blogs – particularly the recent Tour de France ones.
While watching the tour and reading your blog I remembered something funny I had seen recently. I think it will appeal to your sense of humour – Gabriel Gate’s Tour de Frankson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8LK9pLZsi8&noredirect=1
Looking forward to the next instalment!
Sarah and Michael