What a great time we had watching the Tour de France on Bastille Day. This race takes over France for 3 weeks in July. It takes place over 21 stages and this year covers 3,500 kilometers. The race has 10 flat stages, 7 mountain stages, 1 medium mountain stage, 2 individual time-trial stages and 1 team time-trial stage. I am addicted to watching it!
Ian, Juley, Paul and I went to a village called Lauriere to watch the race go through. It is about 44km from Limoges where the race was starting. Before the cyclists arrive there are 200 support vehicles that throw promotional items at all the spectators. It is really competitive trying to grab these items, which can be anything from baseball hats, key rings, mouse mats or little bags of sweets and snacks. This caravan of vehicles passes through over an hour before the cyclists arrive.
The cyclists are preceeded by motorbikes with flashing lights and loads of cameras. There was a breakaway group that came through first, they were about a minute and a half ahead of the peloton. As the main peloton arrived the a huge cheer went up in the village and we were all trying to spot our favourites. I saw Brad Wiggins and Lance Armstrong, and Ian spotted Mark Cavendish. Brad and Mark are two British cyclists who are doing fantastically well in this years tour. Mark has won 4 stages so far in a sprint finish, incredible to think that he can race for 200km and still have enough energy left to sprint for the line! Brad is 4th in the general classfication at the moment and only 46 seconds behind the yellow jersey. They are both so brilliant.
We took a packed lunch with us and sat and ate it after the caravan has passed. There was a young Gendarme keeping an eye on our section of the spectators. He looked about 12 but was probably about 20! He spoke extremely good English but we took the opportunity to speak French to him. He had learnt English at school and then college as he said it was the international language of business, and felt it would really help him in the future. He was very interesting to talk to, he was a reservist Gendarme and was called up when extra police were needed. He was intrigued by the fact that British police in general do not carry firearms, which Gendarmes do. He had had lots of training with his, and said he was a very good shot.
We had such a good time, laughed loads and grabbed loads of goodies!