Monday, July 16, 2012

The Tour de France, Stage 13

There are some things you just have to do. If you  live in the south of France and the famous Tour is passing by, you have to go and sit under a plane tree and wait, wait, wait for men in spandex to whiz by at high speed on two wheels. You just have to. So we did.

{waiting. cue cicadas}

We took kids,chairs,water, nectarines and grapes and headed west of Montpellier where the tour was making its way through to the port town of Sête and the Mediterranean Sea for stage 13. We picked the town of Murviel-les-Montpellier as our watching spot and got there two hours before the estimated arrival time of 3:29.

{the direction they'll be coming from}
The crowd grew as the tour got closer and helicopters announced the circling of film crews. And then the tour sponsor trucks arrived. They came advertising their banks, insurance agencies, baguettes and hotel chains, decorated with over-sized cyclists and sky-high bread sticks poking out of gigantic bicycle baskets, music thumping, the people inside waving and throwing out goodies like blow-up pillows, pretend mobile phones, packets of pastry, keychains (ouch!) and Haribo candy.

{giant yellow jerseyed cyclist. he had a big, round backside}
They came by around an hour before the cyclists so we got all pumped up scrambling for the loot and then sat there, looking around at each other, keeping the Littlest from darting into the curve of the road and waiting.

{Haribo fuels cyclists}
Then the first cyclist surprised us, zipping by, way ahead of the others, flying around the bend at a nauseating speed and leaning into the curve on the thinnest bike wheels I've ever seen.

{in the lead}
We waited, one, two, maybe three minutes, and the group of them, the peloton, arrived.

{here they come}
Jammed in between each other, all leaning their weight into the curve, flying by us, bicycle wheels whirring above the constant scratch of cicada legs, the helicopters overhead, motorcycle policeman waving a yellow flag at the bend in the road. Exhilarating.

{so fast, i can't even tell you}
In an instant, they were gone.

{you can see Bradley Wiggins and his yellow jersey just there}
And we were left with the buzz of them lingering on the air as they headed down the road, legs pumping pedals, to the next town.

{there they go, around the bend}
We gathered our things, all the plastic loot thrown at us, empty water bottles and folded chairs, and went home.
P-Daddy recorded the stage so we could look for ourselves on television.

When we got home we watched what had preceded the blur of wheels speeding past us, through the towns to the north of where we were camped out, the dash through Montarnaud (they're getting closer now) when the leader took off from the group to surprise us by passing on his own, then to the coaches arguing from the sunroofs of their moving cars, beautiful aerial views so reminiscent of Texas hill country from the helicopter cameras, and then cutting back to where we were, all five of us, cheering and smiling and blown by the speed flying past us.

Just missing us! Just a couple of meters past where we were standing.
Not there at all.

'We were right there!!', we yelled at the recorded playback on the television screen.

We were right there.


21 comments:

  1. We are hoping to catch them on Friday... Like you said, you just Have to see the Tour once in your life! Was two hours enough time to figure out parking and where to sit, or would you advise extra time?

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    Replies
    1. If you do it, you'll have to let us all know.
      aidan x

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  2. Awesome post, Aidan! And you were there, that is all that counts. And a mega bravo for the photos because honestly? The year they flew through the center of Arles, all I got was the back wheels and blur. What a fun rite of passage to Frenchidom, non?

    Have a good week!

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  3. So great...we saw the tour about 14 years ago when it went by about 20 minutes from my in-laws home. You are so right...all the trucks, advertising, candy, plastic loot ahead of the riders and then they WIZZ by...so fast. It's great to see but so different than on TV! Hope to take my kids someday..definitely a rite of passage in France! So happy for you - Have a great week!!

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  4. What fun...so much excitement...a great memory! I read today that someone sabotaged the peloton with tacks thrown on the road, can you imagine ? Multiple punctured tires! What an idiot!!

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  5. What fun; sad we didn't get to see a stage this year in person.
    Saw two last summer including the finish in Montpellier won by Mark Cavendish. Your pictures are great, thanks for sharing.

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    1. The photos are all P-Daddy's and he is more than delighted that his two most expensive hobbies (cycling and photography) have collided in such a fantastically perfect way. I'll send along your compliments.
      aidan

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  6. AW man! So close. What a neat thing to witness in person. I would love to go attend a stage of the Tour!

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    1. We were right there! ;)
      And yes, it was really cool to see it. P-Daddy has had another of his dreams come true.
      aidan x

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  7. Great actions shots, Aidan! Especially the head-on pictures. It's like you were right in front of them. How did you manage that without becoming Tour de France roadkill?

    I would so LOVE to sit under a tree and watch French men and their little buns breezing by in spandex! Looks like you had a good time! :)

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    1. It was all the P-Daddy, Mademoiselle. He is getting such a big head with all these compliments.
      You should do it next year...or find a spot along the way back this time and stake it out.
      aidan x

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  8. aww too bad they missed you guys!

    that's funny they advertise baguettes there...who would think that that would be necessary in france where everyone eats baguettes ? =)

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    1. I know! We were so close and you could have seen us and said, i know that girl and her crazy husband out there snapping photographs, risking his life for the blog.

      they advertised baguettes and sausages. but no wine. i guess that sells itself.
      a xo

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  9. How much fun Aidan! I can't tell you what a special family ritual watching "le Tour" was during my childhood! You described it to perfection. The sponsors must be a bit bigger and louder now, and the racers' gear has improved, but the game remains the same. Thank you for the memories! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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    1. You are one of the people I have in my head as I write certain posts, Veronique. I am always so happy to hear that you've liked them and that you agree. My kids are becoming so French, aren't they? They'll have the same memories as you!
      aidan xo

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  10. Great post! As another reader said, your photos are very impressive!!! I saw the Tour de France start a few years ago in Monaco and it is not so easy to get good shots.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Lisa. I love meeting new readers.
      I will pass along the photography praise to my beloved P-Daddy and he will continue to become more and more difficult to deal with because of it. You guys have really made his week.
      aidan

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  11. What a great post and fabulous photos, especially the one of the leader. It sounds like something we should definitely do while we're in France even with all the waiting - I'm sure it's acceptable to take along your own baguettes and wine to help pass the time. Also, as a Brit can I just say "Go Bradley!!!"

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  12. Oh how I would love to see this! I watch live coverage daily to see the riders but more to see the amazing countryside, the incredible mountain climbs, the quaint villes, and certainly those men in tights!

    We rarely see the tour sponsor trucks except in Paris on Sunday. I love the shot of your sweet family, camped out to watch the riders. As I watched today on a mountain stage I thought that to view on the steep climbs would be best as they cannot speed by quite as quickly. But, alas, how do you get there?

    Bises,
    Genie

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