It was gone 2.00 am when we got to bed, but the alarm blasted at 5.45 am – we had to meet the mechanic from Vélo Sport Vacations at 06.00 am. He was right on time and it was only a couple of minutes after six when we pedalled-off on our borrowed Felts to ride the finishing circuit around the Champs-Élysées. Today is the last stage of the Le Tour de France 2007.
It’s the first time I’ve ridden an all carbon bike and it felt very lively, James McCallum rode a Felt last year. The city was buzzing, taxis dropped-off and picked-up those who had decided against sleeping on Saturday night.
We took some pics of guys and girls – the girls looking good, the guys maybe not so good.
The riggers were already hard at work, the Tour involves constructing, then breaking-down a hi-tech village every day for three weeks.
It was good being there, out on the circuit, stopping-off to take pics and notes.
Despite the cobbles and drag up to the Arc de Triomphe, it’s a fast circuit.
The stretch along the Seine is super-quiick, fast tar and a tail wind.
We had an invite from the guys at Velo Sport Vacations to watch the race from one of the balcony’s of the Hotel de Crillon, overlooking the Place de la Concorde.
Very elegant and exclusive, a free glass of champers when the race appeared on the Place and big screens in the salon.
Call me a blether, but the Tour isn’t about exclusivity and keeping the peasants out – it’s about sharing your cheese and wine with people you’ve never met in your life before, beside some stretch of road in la France Profonde – real France.
It wasn’t long before we bailed-out and headed for the barriers – totally unexclusive, but real.
First though, we had an omelette for lunch, on the Rue de Rivoli, it was extortionate but what’s better than watching the Tour caravan go past whilst sitting in the shadow of the Ferris wheel?
The crowds were huge, every inch of the route was lined.
We walked “against” the race along the side of the Seine and back to the finish.
For the first couple of laps it wasn’t mega-quick, but the finale was very fast.
Geraint Thomas did a good job for Hunter, but you could tell that Bennati had told his Lampre boys; “get me there boys, and I’ll win it for us.”
His team worked themselves to death, some of them slumped over the bars, freewheeling-in after the sprint, completely wasted. Lampre would enjoy their post-Tour party, for sure.
Boonen and QuickStep just weren’t organised, maybe they were all tired? But Tom looked happy and relieved as he tugged-on the final green jersey. He’s a very popular rider and was cheered as loudly as Contador.
The laps of honour were good fun; each team rides up the Champs Elysees and back down, brandishing flags, waving, and larking around – relieved and happy to be in Paris.
Boonen didn’t forget his loyal Flemish fans: he stopped and ambled over to the fence for a hundred handshakes.
Lampre were full of joy.
Barloworld flew the Union Jack, Colombian and Republic of South Africa flags from the bike rack; and Geraint was patently in awe.
Euskaltel flew the Basque flag – all great stuff. Another marvellous experience for us to put in our catalogue of life. We met the best of folks, the riders we spent time with were cool to a man, the scenery was amazing, and we laughed a lot.
But, a great Tour? How could it be? Four major drug scandals – Sinkewitz, Vino, Moreni, and Rasmussen; plus a thunderstorm always in the air around the winner.
A great ten days of our lives, but a poor, poor Tour. We tried hard to take you with us, and hope you enjoyed at least some of our words and pictures.
Until the next race; “ciao, ciao.”
PostScript: we got a text message as we got off the plane at Prestwick: “Mayo positive”.