I’ve been watching the Tour de France as an avid fan for quite a few years now. This year our impromptu anniversary trip to France meant that we’d be in Paris for the last day of the Tour de France. To me, that was a wonderful opportunity because when they’re going up and down the Champs Élysées, you get to see the whole peleton go by multiple times.
About as soon as I knew we were going, something happened. All of the riders that I was interested in seeing had issues. Thor Hushovd and Andy Schleck were out before the start of the race. Ryder Hesjedal, who’d just become the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour race in Italy, got taken out by a stupid accident early in the race (shakes fist at Petacchi). That cancelled my plan to be waving a Canadian flag in Paris. Then Fabian Cancellara withdrew to be with his wife for the birth of his second child. It seemed like every time I expressed hope for a rider to do well, he’d crash or drop out. I tried not to think too many good thoughts for Thomas Voeckler in his plucky bid for the King of the Mountains jersey.
Then there was the issue of trying to keep up with the race while being a busy tourist. Our late afternoon siestas worked well for catching the end of each stage, but the French announcers were so low key it didn’t seem possible they were watching the same race. I’m used to listening to Paul Sherwen & Phil Liggett and they manage bring the race alive.
The last day arrived, but the riders weren’t due to be in Paris until the late afternoon. We did our tour of Notre Dame, then wandered along the Seine and had lunch. We wandered down towards the Tuileries and managed to snag some of the reclining metal chairs we’d used a few days earlier.
It’s such a lovely park and the chairs were comfortable, but I was getting antsy and wanted to see what was going on. We could hear the beginning of the caravan coming through: music blared and indistinct voices advertised products over sound systems. I left Ron relaxing to go and scope things out. All the good spots along the wall on the park side of the road were taken up, but people were starting to set up a second row.
Meanwhile there seemed to be spaces along the fence on the other side of the road by the river. And the trees meant that there was a decent amount of shade. I went back and convinced Ron to stand with me. We had a great spot right on the fence near a bridge.
We leaned on the fence and listened to folks around us. A family of Brits set up next to us. Trying to be friendly, I asked if the woman thought that Cav was going to be able to take a fourth (win in a row on the last stage). It turned out that they weren’t exactly cycling fans and I might as well have been speaking Greek!
I started practicing taking photos of passing caravan vehicles to see if I could get good pictures of moving objects:
I took pictures of team buses when they finally came through:
Meanwhile it was quite hot. The sun was moving and the shade wasn’t covering us as completely. Ron bought some water. Then we heard the helicopter & I knew that the race was close. The people on the park wall could see the riders coming before we could, and the yelling and clapping rippled down the road.
I took a video of the riders when they came through in a whoosh the first time. It’s pretty fast, but you can almost clearly see Thomas Voeckler in the polka dot jersey sitting up at the end.
On the next few rounds I took pictures and managed to get quite a few that I’m happy with:
R to L: Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel & Bradley Wiggins from Sky
Jens Voigt of Radioshack-Nissan on a bit of a breakaway
Mark Cavendish of Sky on his way to winning the stage.
We managed to get a little souvenir of our time there, although I’m still miffed that I missed the bottle from a Sky rider that hit my foot and bounced back out.