I love Le Tour, but after eight years of living in France I’d never had the opportunity to watch it live.
It passed close to my house twice this year, once heading north towards Mt St Michel for the time trial, and then a transition phase down past Vitré, heading south.
It was a Tuesday, I was at home and decided I would go.
Quick look at the map, found a small village and headed off. The road was flat as a pancake, and with Twitter as my ally I learned there was a breakaway group of 5.
The caravan came past, the helicopters started circling and then … they were there. And then they were gone. Even though I do a lot of cycling, and I watch as much as I can on the telly, I was staggered to see just how fast they rode past me. Then the helicopters came back, and the peleton arrived. And then they were gone.
It was spectacular, an explosion of colour flashing past me in almost total silence apart from the noise of very very fast rubber on tarmac. They went so fast I didnt even have time to take a photo of the yellow jersey.
I got home and couldn’t stop talking about how brilliant it was, showed the few photo’s I’d taken and gave away my goodies retrieved from the caravan. I told anyone who would listen that I loved it, and the next step for me would be to watch a stage in the mountains.
Thursday evening, the Boss got home from work and said ‘I’m off on Monday, do you fancy going to watch Le Tour in the mountains?”
I couldn’t book a plane/accommodation/hire car quick enough. Friday morning we flew to Lyon, picked up the car and drove to the lovely French city of Carpentras.
Sunday 14 July dawned bright and beautiful, and we headed up Le Mont Ventoux with our big picnic, with a couple of beers, found a spot just next to the 5km’s to go banner, and started the wait.
What a fantastic day, we had a French family next to us, and their son was in constant contact with his mate watching the stage on the telly.
You cannot imagine the atmosphere on the hill, when, just before the foot of Le Ventoux, on the French national holiday, Sylvain Chavanel attacked and pulled away from the peleton. The place went wild.
From where we were stood, we could see right down the valley, and although we couldn’t make out individual riders, you could see the group slowly heading towards the great big hill waiting for them at the end of the longest stage of Le Tour.
Then slowly, riders off the front of the peleton, and two escaped. Chris Froome and the young Columbian Nairo Quintana.
I honestly dont have the words to describe my feelings when the two of them came round the corner and rode past me.
The realisation of a dream, to actually see Le Tour live, in the mountains, and on 14th July with over 300,000 people on the hill, actually did reduce me to a few tears.
That day will live with me forever, made so much better by seeing an Englishman leading, before finally winning the stage.
A wonderful wonderful day.