Chapter Four Crossing France
Le Tour de France Arrives in Saint Amand-Montrond
Since I can only report after the fact, you already know who won the Stage from Tours to Saint Amand-Montrond so it won't hurt anything to write about it. There was a couple talking next to me and this was the first time in almost a year I had heard English from people who use it as a primary language. They were from Britain and were most pleased that Cavendish took the Stage.
This is about one kilometer from the finish line and it's an exhilarating sensation to drive down the same route the racers will take. Even as early as I arrived, people were already staged at vantage points they thought would be best for the race.
Oh, you think this is crowded. This isn't crowded. Le Tour was still well over one hundred kilometers from the finish so it would be hours yet before the racers arrive but it was still important to find your position early.
The first ones to arrive were the next generation racers of Le Tour and the crowd absolutely loved them. They arrived to great applause.
A good many are in their teens but the ones the crowd loved the most were the really little ones. Those kids showed a whole lot of heart.
There were promotional vehicles driving around with beautiful girls aboard who would throw gifts to the crowd along the road. Every time one came past, the juniors would come thundering from their seats only to sit back down after it passed to wait to do it again with the next one. This happened quite a lot as there were many, many of these vehicles and they were all part of building the excitement before the arrival of the racers.
The weather was blistering hot and I wasn't quite sure if I had the stuff for it as there was no way to get any shade and my head was getting quite a sunburn. I got lucky when a Vittel truck around giving away cold bottles of water and I used one to cool my head.
No, the aircraft is not unusual. There were many vehicles like that. It was wonderful and the crowd loved it. I talked with my new English friends and they asked if this was my first Tour and what I thought of it. I told them I thought it was mad fun. I have seen sports spectacles in my life but the passion in this one was something from another world.
Here's your answer to the heat. Put a beautiful young girl atop some crazy vehicle with a super soaker water cannon. What she's doing looks crazy but she had some apparatus to ensure she didn't fall out of it and that permitted her to do all sorts of crazy stunts. The crowd loved it, particularly her water spray.
Now we are ready for the racers.
We could see exactly what was happening and how far out the racers were on a large-screen TV across the street. As you can see, even the police were watching it.
You will have to wait a little bit yet, just as we did, as the remainder of my coverage is in video. That part is what you have already seen. What I was trying to do today was show you the things you don't see. Lotho was absolutely right that this was not something to be missed. It's much, much more than a race as there was a spirit shared by everyone and it was so much fun plus it was absolutely charming.
And one more because it’s just too strange to leave out.
This gentleman was doing some bizarre baby talk but it was very funny, even without understanding the language. This was a powered vehicle and he roamed about all over the place. He brought water also as he could make it shoot out to the sides from the rim of the carriage.
Here the video of the riders arriving and it seems anti-climactic in watching but it didn't feel that way as you won't see anyone turning away after they pass. There are many more racers to come and all deserve respect.
This is not exactly a Wide World of Sports video but hopefully it gives you an idea of the excitement in the crowd as the racers approach. I shot the video by holding the iPad up over my head. It hasn't been used for too much on this adventure but it was fun, if difficult, to put it to work for this.
There was so much excitement in so many ways that when my English friend asked me what I thought of it, my response was that it was mad ... but in the most wonderful way. As with just about anything, there is no substitute for being there. If you will permit a brief editorial, you couldn't find a better reason for avoiding the living death of Facebook, smartphones, or any of the trappings of The Matrix in which the only thing missing is the plug in the back of your head. Ask yourself what Hemingway would have done.