We said a sad goodbye to the chateau today and transferred to the next hotel in Avignon today. Thoroughly awful, especially after our delightful digs the previous few days.
Our activity for the day was to have VIP access to the Departure Village in Montpellier. Being a departure city is kind of a big deal for direct and indirect economic reasons, and the departure village is a way for M. le Maire, Mlle. Princesse de Whatever, and other local dignitaries to go onstage with Bernard Hinault and the rest of the crew, and invite a few hundred friends for the celebration.
As tourists, a lot of that stuff sort of passes me by. Still, Vlad and I did enjoy local cheeses, wine and oysters at one tent, whilst chatting with a couple of young ladies who consult with local winemakers to help them with le marketing etc.
Besides the local boosters and tourists like us, the departure village also serves the traveling community of the Tour itself. All the media people have to eat breakfast, meet sponsors, and so on. The teams have to set up the bikes, the riders have to sign and warm up and sign autographs. The UCI has to do doping controls. There’s a barber shop in a tent, sponsored by Bic, and the racers can get a shave or a haircut. However, it also lets you just wander around with the teams as they get ready for the day. I’ll post some up close photos separately.
So there I am, just wandering around in this big crowd, practically mingling. I almost collided with Julian Alaphilippe, one of the relatively famous guys, who was just riding around. I stood cocktail party-close to people I’ve watched on TV: Greipel, Bookwalter, Chavanel (who looks like a movie star).
And in the race? They headed up a shortened Mt. Ventoux climb due to high winds. Three of the leaders collided with one of the motorcycles near the top, causing all sorts of upset. Chris Froome tried to use one of the neutral support bikes because his own second bike was stuck on the crush of fans further down. It looked like he was a clown act. Sad.
Ultimately we were too tired to wrestle with the winds and less than ideal roads, so this became our rest day.