We slept until 8am this morning. It was hard to get out of bed. We had a cool room, the blankets were warm and best of all, we wouldn't have to make them. But crawl out of bed we did, for today was Tour de France day for us.
After dressing in our cycling gear, we headed down to the car. We had about a 45 minute drive to Revel.
What a beautiful drive. The entire countryside was full of sunflower fields with soem small wheat fields mixed in. Brandon commented on how Katrina would have loved this area for her photography.
It was a cloudy morning, which helped keep the heat down for awhile. These fields were everywhere. Brandon did his best to take some pictures as I drove.
Today's stage (stage 13) of the Tour de France was a rolling ride beginning in Robel and finishing in Revel.
We arrived in Revel, a small town, a bit smaller than Corvallis OR. Imagine several hundred vehicles - officials, VIP's, sponsors, and press from all over the world descending on downtown. Most every street into downtown was closed to traffic. Add thousands of people to that and you have the biggest event to hit town in a long time.
The final 100 meters to the finish
Many homes and businesses were decorated for the Tour.
We found some parking in a field just on the edge of town, unloaded our bikes and gear, then headed into town.
The Saturday market was in full swing and we ended up in the middle of it. That was a good thing. We were able to buy some breakfast from a bakery vendor, get a brochure with map and events for the weekend, and buy a Revel Tour de France t-shirt for Brandon.
It's amazing how much attention Brandon's bike gets. A French man came over and did his best to converse with us about the bike. Sometimes I'm amazed at how much two people can communicate even when they don't speak each others languages.
Brandon and I figured out what part of town the finish line was in and headed that way. Most of the streets were closed off to traffic, so riding around town was very easy...well, somewhat easy. There were thousands of people slowly descending on the town. We passed three residential streets that were closed and full of press vans, then found the race course. The last 300 meters were closed to everyone, but we were able to ride the opposite way. We wanted to ride the course, so we headed down the road, leading out of town and into the hills. We were riding the course backwards. The first 4 km were closed to traffic, then the route turned left and headed up into the hills. This section was still open to traffic, but it was pretty light.
At the bottom of the climb we realized that we had not filled up our water bottles. We turned around only to find that we were now not allowed to enter the last 3 km of the course and would have to take a 5km detour back into town.
We did this and had a good short ride into town, finding a gas station with water for sale. Filled up and ready to go, we hit the course again. It was interesting that we could enter the course from 300 meters out but not from 3 km out. So, we rode the course back past the policeman who detoured us earlier, waved and smiled, then headed up the climb.
Here is where humility hit me like a brick wall. Brandon climbed like a mountain goat. This was his first big climb and he did great, even getting out of the saddle to pound out the steep sections. He had to wait for me twice!! Pride and humility all in the same moment.
The course was already lined with spectators (4 hours before the race arrival) and they cheered as we (especially Brandon) and other cyclists rode up the course. Brandon was all smiles. A kid on a road bike in a yellow jersey on a climbing section of the Tour de France route is very popular with the crowds.
At the top of the climb we made a right turn and headed into a little village where one of the Carrefour Tour village expo was setup. We took a break, had a drink and checked out the booths. Brandon even rode a stationary bike - carnival type race game. He didn't win, but he had a blast.
Brandon poses near the lake at the top of the climb
We headed down the other side of the hill and back into Revel. The route actually goes through the edge of town, climbs up the hill and circles around to the other side of town before heading back in for the final sprint.
At this point we decided to head back to the course, find some food and see what was going on. While Brandon ate a hot dog, I chatted with a nice couple from North Carolina. They are in France for 10 days to see the last week of the Tour.
The Tour has many diehard fans
Brandon was anxious to do a little more riding, so we headed out of town to continue our ride along the course. By now the sides of the road were filling up with more and more spectators. We made it pretty far, but ended up being stopped at one point and told we had to turn around. The course was now closing for good because the sponsor parade was getting close.
So, we headed back into town and found a spot near the 400meters to go mark and camped out. Brandon missed the sponsor parade at the Tour of Switzerland, so he really wanted to see this one. I think he just wanted all the free goodies.
Waiting for the sponsor parade to arrive
Notice that Brandon now has a Tour de France yellow jersey on.
Every town is proud of their Tour de France connection
And the sponsor parade begins. The following parade of vehicles and floats travels the entire route of each stage, a couple of hours before the race, handing out all sorts of freebies. Brandon picked up hats, key chains, water bottles, giant foam hands, bang sticks to make noise when the cyclists go by, frisbees, candy, snacks and more. The parade was about a 45 minutes long.
The Lion, symbol of the Tour de France
After the sponsor parade went by, it was only about 30 minutes before support vehicles and police started coming down the road. We could hear and see the helicopters that follow and film the race. You could feel the excitement in the air as everyone anxiously awaited to arrival of the peleton. We would have understood what was happening in the race a little better if we could undertand the French commentary on the speakers.
My boy, waiting for the riders to arrive
Finally the leads cars came through followed by a lone sprinter, Alexandre Vinokourov of the Astana team. He won the stage. The overall classification didn't really change much. It was a sprinters day.
Lance and Popo ride to the finish
After all the riders were in, we made our way down to the finish line to see what was going on. It was a crowded crazy area. We ended up chatting with a couple from Washington state who were following the Tour. They had their bikes and were riding parts of the courses each day.
We were tired from a full day. Time to head back to our hotel room in Toulouse. As we made our way back to the car, we were passed by the last of the team buses leaving for the night. Brandon remarked that it would be cool if some teams were staying in our hotel. I agreed, but didn't think it was likely. Toulouse is a good size city and who knows where the teams are staying.
As we turned into the Novotel parking lot we were surprised to see Team Sky and Team Lampre setup in the side lot. Brandon got his wish. The staff were working hard cleaning bikes and getting gear ready for tomorrows race. We wandered around a bit, checking out what everyone was doing, then headed up to our room. We were happy to have a room overlooking the side lot. Brandon and I watched and took pictures.
Brandon and all his free goodies
Team Sky at our hotel
View from our room
Bikes must be washed...
Vehicles must be washed...
Laundry must be washed
Team Sky rides Pinarellos
Only a small fraction of the bikes and gear in the equipment truck
Later in the evening we headed downstairs for dinner. There were various staff and riders all around the hotel, but we kept our distance and gave them the space they needed.
Brandon enjoys a sundae after a plate of pasta con pesto
We spotted these two teams at the hotel next door.
Tired from a busy day, we headed upstairs, watched part of the race on TV and went to bed. Tomorrow we head back to Revel for the start of stage 14, then head home.