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HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2012 - Stage 10: Mâcon - Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194...

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 10: Mâcon – Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194 km.


Bonjour! Today in Mâcon was our first outing on the Tour parcours, in the mountains it’s sometimes difficult to get on to race route, because just as in the Highlands of Scotland, there aren’t that many roads.

Ed captures the scene.

We set the satnav for Ambronay, which was 73 kilometres into the stage but within easy reach of the autoroute and guided by Brian Blessed’s foghorn voice slipped along a network of tiny roads into the village, after we’d paid our last toll charge.

The toll charges really are sore, we’re at least £10 every time we venture on to the autoroute, but to meet deadlines there’s little choice but to use their speedy tarmac.

It’s easy to forget the effect the Tour has – every village, no matter how small, is ‘en fete’ and making an effort to catch the eye of the helicopters, although some of the decorations and displays aren’t the most professional.

But they do a good job of upsetting Vik back in Scotland, who hates the ‘frills’ that accompany le Tour.

Martin snaps the vista.

He’s hardcore, into the racing, but the Tour is more than that, it’s a deep routed part of French culture.

Take the day off work – if you’re not already on holiday – grab the kids, buy some baguettes, a chunk of cheese, a pack of ham, red wine, water and fruit ‘et voila!’ go and watch le Tour.

The first time the Tour’s gone up here? Hard to believe.

The big climb of the Col du Grand Colombier was a monster, 17.4 kilometres with ramps up to 17 and 18%.

The crowds were big and the atmosphere good as we inched up the beast, dodging those souls who have to zigzag to the top at all costs on their granny gears, the guys in their Speedos, strange furry creatures, hyper kids and those just too lazy to get out of the way.

Fortunately, there weren’t too many Dutch on the climb – not that I have anything against our friends from across the North Sea, but when they have a sesh on the drink they really do not know when to stop.

Last year, the l’Alpe d’Huez stage took place on the final Saturday of the Tour, there were Dutch fans taking up position on the Monday, if you were there on Wednesday, you were ‘too late’ and by Friday when we arrived, it was madness.

Turn a corner on the normally tranquil hill – usually there’s just the gasp of cyclists on the way up, testing themselves against the slopes and the rattle of freewheels on the way down – and mayhem greets you.

There’s a scaffold been set up, atop which a deejay plays the worst Europop in the history of the world – ever; hundreds of drunken fans dance in the road, some are passed out in their tents whilst their still sober amigos form conga lines.

Compared to that, the Colombier was calm.

The caravan was as fascinating as ever, the imagination and skill of the vehicle builders always amazes me.

New movie advert up the Alpes.

Ducks, gas canisters, giant tyres, horses, lions, alligators all hurtle up the hill to the cheers of the fans.

Most of the vehicles dispense freebees and the trick is to make yourself as noticeable as possible so as the girls and boys on the vehicles fire biscuits/washing powder/hats/key rings/carrier bags/ sweeties . . . . at you.

Some of the fans – kids in particular – get carried away and I saw at least one close shave where someone risked their life to pick up a throw away in the road.

Kids make a wild noise to get freebies. These guys did really well.

The thing that amuses me about the caravan vehicles is that no matter bizarre they look, they have to carry creds, just like our wee Renault – but where the hell else would a duck paddling pool on wheels be going?