So, what did stage 12 have to offer?
These Vaches rode some of it on particularly crappy rental bikes and lived to tell the tale, so we can vouch for it being pretty tame over the last quarter, although we weren’t altogether happy with a headwind for the second day running. We started early – leaving Saint-Michel-sur-Loire at around 7.00 – and spotted a number of officials putting up barriers and route markers as we rode. The benefit of having rubbish language skills is that we chose to believe they were offering encouragement to us as we rode past.
I’m beginning to see the attraction of life on the road in a camper. For a start, you’re not up at sparrow’s trying to get to another town in order to return rental bikes you’d rather chuck in the Loire. Plus, you get to decorate.
For some reason, the pros don’t have breaks for petit déjeuner and visiting chateaux. Their loss. Particularly on the chateaux (although this morning’s café crème, grand was not bad at all).
They do, however, get a heads-up when cattle are about. Are they paying attention?
We were, making friends with more Touraine Limousins. These were just before the village of Vallères, so we hoped they’d be spotted during the stage.
Images: M Vache
Our path diverged from the Tour route for a bit, but we were lucky to spot these by the Loire:
Images: M Vache
We pressed on, riding through Villandry to the cheers of those who’d arrived early and were clearly bored. We were so motivated by the fans that we powered on towards the 15km to go marker, ignoring the indignant beeps of the Garmin telling us that we’d veered dangerously from our set veloroute. Didn’t matter, the fans seemed equally excited as we rode around the roundabout to retrace our steps to the turn-off.
Another thing that the pros are really missing out on is the chance to sit and carve off thick slices of saucisson sec and slather great gobs of local rillettes onto crusty bread. I do love that passing cyclists and piétons greet you with “bon appetit!” when they see you eating. Perhaps what they really mean is “who ate all the pies?” but I like to think that they are actually vicariously enjoying lunch. I doubt this happens after a feed zone. Really, I’m starting to think the whole Grand Tour project needs a revamp.
Anyway, this is a stage recap, so recap we will. We arrived in Tours, checked in, and headed for a spot we’d earmarked as giving us the best chance to see some action in close quarters without being right at the pointy end of a sprint finish again. We found a spot on the barrier right on the roundabout as the course turned onto Winston Churchill Boulevard.
While we waited for the caravan, I fired up the portable wifi to see what was happening down the road. My feed was full of Ashton Agar’s Ashes achievements, the jardins of chateaux, and a rather inspired hashtag, #lvdtsongs. I suspect the awesome Buttered Frog was behind this, but am happy to be corrected. [In fact, I have been told that it was the brainchild of the equally talented Tete de la Course.]
Oh, and we had reports of vaches!
Time passed. Madeleines were thrown. Old women were remonstrated with by police as they tried to cross the roundabout. Dutch fans tried to elbow out cow fans. Vaconsoleil buses tried to enter the course. A scooter rider outfoxed police by… well, by just riding down the Route Barrée. There seemed to be no consequences. Festive mood and all that. (Unless you’re an old lady.)
We were rather discombobulated that this happened right in front of our eyes, and forgot to pay attention to the race as it dashed towards the finish. There were more crashes (I’ve since seen that EBH is out of the tour) and a sprint finish between the fastest man in the world… and the man who beat him today. Kittel and his magnificent hair took stage honours. No jerseys change hands, and Flecha gets the satisfaction of most-combative for his attack late in proceedings.
Les Vaches en Tour is en transit tomorrow to Lyon. Depending on luggage storage friendliness, we might try to get a look at the start, but the next stage we’ll see in person will be the finish of Stage 14.