Monday, 30 July 2007

The Travelling Caravanne


It's not just a whole load of chaps on bikes yer know!

Everyone talked about the caravanne that preceeds the cyclists, but little did we realise what we were going to see. The most amazing floats - tyres, bottles of water, animals, watches and, of course, bikes! These people have travelled from London down the east side France to the Pyrenées and then back up the west side to Paris, throwing all sorts of goodies out to the waiting hoards. Because we live in a rural area I don't think the "catch" was as good as if we had been watching on the outskirts of, say, Angouleme or even Vieux Mareuil just up the road.

But the spectacle was just A MA ZING! For an hour we watched this lot go passed. I didn't take that many photos as I couldn't hold the camera, wave and try to grab freebies at the same time.

At one point the whole spectacle came to a grinding halt just in front of us - someone had got stuck trying to squeeze under the bridge just up the road - so I managed a quick snap of part of the Nestle Aquarelle parade.


On our side of the road there was a chap on a lorry spraying everyone with water. DH and I stepped back to avoid it, but the people we were with got a bit wet.

Then silence - complete silence. The temperature started to rise and we were sitting under the trees wishing we had remembered to bring the Evian spray and enviously watching those who had decided to make a day of it eating sandwiches, drinking cold Chablis or Chardonnay and generally enjoying themselves. At least I remembered to bring the water bottles!

Slowly but surely the Skoda and LCL cars started to go past, then a few motor bikes with camera men riding pillion , then a few "L'Equipe" people carriers and then silence again. We chatted to the young gendarme who was part of Le Tour Equipe and was on duty to stop us stepping over the white line and getting run over! He had done the Pyrenees run and was getting pretty fed up. It was hot, he was in the full regalia, gun, truncheon and all, and had had enough! I was tempted to take a photo, but thought better of it.

Then the portable rang ever so loudly - we jumped! It was Mum calling from the UK to say that the riders were south of Brantome, so not very long to wait, but that if we were standing where she thought we were we had no chance of being seen on the tv as the cameras will be in front of us facing the other way. Oh well - not a problem - at least we tried. So we listened and listened, waiting for the helicopters to appear. A big yellow van with loud speakers came roaring up the road giving us info on what was happening to the riders. The leaders had split off from the rest at Brantome and there was a 17 minute gap - 17 minutes!

Suddenly we could hear the helicopters. They came up


over the trees - 4 of them circling and circling over our heads, swooping down low and then rising back up again - fantastic sight. Then the entourage appeared round the corner and before we knew what was happening the four leaders were upon us. Les claxons hooting like mad, everyone cheering and shouting, headlights flashing and it seemed as if we were in the middle of some huge celebration.

Then flash! They'd gone, leaving a few straggling gendarmerie motorbikes and the odd car.

Only 17 minutes to wait we thought - that will go by in a flash. Alex was getting fed up . Her friend Amandine was getting fed up and everyone was getting just a bit hot.

17 minutes stretched to 20 and


we thought we heard a helicopter. Then it appeared from behind the trees on the opposite side of the road. Over it came swooping and then rising up like a big white bird. Circling round and round.

A huge roaring noise followed it, flashing lights, claxons and Le Tour had finally arrived. This was what we had been waiting for.

The noise was horrendous. Sirens, motor bikes with journalists and camera men riding pillion, the estate cars belonging to France 2, the silver Skoda cars, the yellow LCL cars, the "team" cars - it was something else.


Then they were gone, but hang on, what is happening. The cavalcade slowed right down. The riders were going up the hill to the bridge at the top. They had climbed all the way from Brantome. It probably didn't look like it on tv (we are yet to watch a DVD that someone recorded for us), but it is a long long climb from Perigueux to Angouleme. In a car - fine. On a VTT no way! I am personally not surprised that they take drugs. How else are they supposed to manage these long long rides every day for 3 weeks!

Anyway, gendarmes started to chat to people in the car next to them


and a party atmosphere broke out, albeit for about 5 minutes.

Things started to speed up again and it was all over.


Walked back up the hill to fetch the car and by the time we had loaded DH and DD's bikes into the back and turned the car round, the D939 was open to traffic again. We rushed back and watched the last stretch from Dignac to Angouleme on  tv and heard about the dog who had run into the road earlier that day, bringing down the French guy who went on to win the day!

After all that - they didn't show our little bit of paradise - they were too busy filming Brantome and Mareuil sur Belle. Good thing really - I didn't have time to do the flag so you probably wouldn't have seen me, unless you just happened to spot a lunatic jumping up and down wearing a dark blue Nike baseball hat!


Juliann said...

What fun! Many years ago we went to the men's marathon at the Olympics and it was similar - lots of waiting and fun stuff going on and then the runners came by and then it was over. But so fun to have the memory. You did a great job describing the sights. Thanks

Connie W said...

Wow! Thank you for the wonderful post about this. After sharing with DH about your previous post and plan to do the banner/sign, he made a special VCR tape recording the race for me. He just gave it to me last evening so I hadn't even had time to watch it yet. Your description of the event is perfect, thanks for sharing your experience. Connie W

Tonya R said...

the waiting part doesn't sound like much fun, but the rest of it sure does. I hadn't heard about the rider running into the dog. At least he didn't end up hurt like the rider that happened to earlier in the race.

belvie said...

I watched every day of the race. I did look for your sign, but tv coverage moves so fast and only shows parts of the race. I can't imagine how exciting it was to see the race in person.

Amy said...

Now I want to see Le Tour more than ever!

What great photos.

Angela said...

What a fun experience! Sounds like a wonderful memory to have.

Bobby (UK) said...

Looked out for you Clare, but it all moved so fast on TV! Thanks for wonderful description - enjoyed the whole tour so much this year despite all the drug controversy. I saw it live way back in the 60's when I was in Strasbourg and my lasting memory is of noise and klaxons! Great stuff!

Lily said...

Fun, boring, fun, hot, fun!!!!! How fabulous to have been a part of it all Clare :)

Marne said...

I did look for your flag. We had even decided the Tour was the perfect excuse to buy the new HDTV - and we did. What a perfectly glorious countryside. Makes me want to come and watch in person sometime. Even if it is a relatively short time.

Glad you got to see it yourself, in person.
Bon Chance.