M. Vache and I boarded a very crowded train from Sète to Montpellier. It was a local and our tickets were “non-reserved”, but they could just as well have been “try the next one, knuckleheads”. We pushed on, regardless, and arrived in the rather gorgeous finish town of Le Tour 100‘s sixth stage in time for a late breakfast.
We’d had a look at the course on google maps and plotted out some likely view spots, having decided that the actual finish might be a bit crowded. After our rather grand petit dejeuner, we wandered out for a recce of the final kilometres. The organisers were out in force, setting up barriers and direction signs.
We weren’t the only ones checking out the course.
It was hot and rather a trek from the centre of town to the route the Tour was taking so once we figured that the elevated highways weren’t the best vantage point, we decided to head for the finish and see what life might be like there, with a view to going back later in the afternoon to a likely spot. The song goes “Mad dogs and Englishmen…” but it might just as well be “Anglophones”, as the barriers from the finish to around the 150m mark had been snapped up by Australians, English fans and the odd American. We decided we might as well grab a spot, too.
We chose the 150m mark, as there was a large screen so we could keep tabs on what was happening on the road without alienating the Fair Use policy of our wireless provider too egregiously. The only drawbacks to that was that there was no shade and they seemed to be showing some version of a Gabriel Gaté al fresco cooking show.
Almost immediately, we lamented the fact that we hadn’t brought hats. We hadn’t counted on the desire of the sponsors to hand out as many freebies as they do. By the end of the first fifteen minutes, we each had a baseball cap and a choice of bucket hats to help us avoid having to call on Saint Jean or whoever runs rescue services for ill-prepared Tour fans. Oh, and saucisson that we didn’t have to fight for.
We saved the greatest shows of gratitude for the water trucks that went by, spraying us liberally as long as we cheered loudly. When it comes to the prospect of dehydration, I’d have to say we had no shame.
The five hours that seemed, at the beginning, to be interminable passed pretty quickly. Of course, while we were listening to the French announcer calling “something something Christopher FROOOOOME!” and “something something ONDY SCHLECK!” for what, having read the stage reports, seems like no other reason than the sheer enjoyment of saying FRRRROOOOOOME! and ONDY SCHLECK!, there was a race going on. And not just any race. A race… with vaches.
Isn’t it always the way? Thanks to Team Vaches, for the excellent screen grabs and #LVDT tweets, as always.
The stage headed towards its conclusion, with the late glitch of a pre-stage favourite hitting the road. There was some discussion on Twitter as to the legality of Cav’s method of rejoining the peloton, but that wasn’t apparent to us. We were just hearing “something something Cavendeeeeeesh!”.
With 10 km to go, there was a kerfuffle amongst the local fans near us that involved the gendarmerie and then a heated discussion that actually included the phrase “liberté, egalité, fraternité!” and would have ended with “who’s going home in the back of a divvy van” had it happened in Australia. It might have been over the massing of these flags.
Suddenly the race was upon us. My fears of bringing down the peloton by dropping a water bottle or losing one of my hats were forgotten.
Greipel disappearning, Cav trying not to lose him, Sagan ripping through.
Image: M Vache
And it was over. Our first “live” tour stage. Won by Greipel with the added bonus of a yellow jersey for Daryl Impey.
Africa’s first yellow jersey.
Image: M Vache