Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tour de France
The famous bike race, the Tour de France, is in full swing, and we were able to catch part of it last Sunday. The race covers about 3,500 km in a little over twenty days. It usually passes through, or near Pau during its legs in the Pyrenees Mountains. This year, day nine of the event ended in a nearby town called Tarbes. We missed our chance to see the Tour de France last year, so figured we should partake this year in case it is our last chance to see it.
We decided to watch the riders pass through another nearby town called Lourdes. We arrived several hours before their scheduled arrival, not knowing what to expect for crowds and road closures. We camped out on a shaded, grassy hill beside the race route, and waited patiently with fans from all over Europe (cycling is big here!).
One nice surprise was the caravan that passes by about 1&1/2 hours before the racers. It is a parade of very modern floats from event sponsors, throwing out treats to the crowds. For many spectators, this is as exciting as watching the riders pass by. There were about thirty different sponsors, each with at least two floats (one for each side of the road).
Finally, the wait was over, and the racers approached…and flew by. They whizzed by so quickly that I could barely get a photo. Needless to say, I was not able to pick Lance Armstrong out of the pack! There were several groups of riders, but within twenty minutes, everyone had passed by. The wait was definitely longer than the main attraction, but it was nevertheless exciting and worth our Sunday afternoon.