L’Arrivée

We can see the finish line now, literally and figuratively. After the little bike tour, we jumped on the Metro and rode down to the Place de la Concorde to watch the women’s race and then a couple hours later see the men come through for the famous circuit race up and down the Champs Elysées. 

The closest metro stop was closed, so an unexpected walk ensued, but then we got past security and voilà!



Maybe it’s stating the obvious, but you don’t often get to stand around here and take pictures… without a trip to the hospital. Our seats allowed us to see the racers coming and going, and with the application of a little chutzpah we were able to get right down by the finish line. Much much better than advertised. 

The women’s race was sort of like watching a college event.  Although they are all pros, only a handful really make full time a living as cyclists… the sponsors just aren’t ponying up. However, also like a college event, the racers were quite approachable, and many of them watched the men’s race from our same bleachers. Marianne Vos, who’s one of the true legends in women’s road cycling, came in third. 



Vlad and I took a walk for a while before the men came through. 

What a difference a block makes… Our passes let us wander inside the secure area, where many thousands of police lounged in cars and paddy wagons, watching YouTube videos, checking Facebook, and praying to stay bored. 


Here’s part of the way you broadcast the event worldwide. 


The race itself unfolded as expected… Greipel the sprinter won over dashing Peter Sagan. 


Sagan had the coolest bike. It sort of glowed from within. 


Here’s another shot of our seats… Really amazing. 


And then the long walk home. Metro out of the question… Crazy crowded. The Place de l’Etoile is seldom empty like this.


Hitting the room around 10 pm, dinner was out of the question. The dedicated autograph hounds were rewarded, but I didn’t have the patience and so headed upstairs. Here’s Rafal Majka, King of the Mountains, signing a jersey. 


And after I passed him my pen with a speed worthy of an Olympic relay team, Vlad cornered Majka in the elevator for a fine signature for his granddaughter. 


Obviously, staying in the same hotel as half the racers had its perks. 

Like any sporting event, it was tremendously exciting, and then it was over. I’m so glad I had the chance to see it, and see it this way. Worth every penny, or more accurately, every several thousand pennies. 

Thank you, my dear one, from the bottom of my heart. 

Helpful Directions


Oui, Monsieur, you are looking to compensate for something, perhaps there has been some question about your masculinity? Simply follow this street to the corner of Le Boulévard Davidsonne, and you will find what you need. 

Paris bike tour

On Sunday morning, we all got on the metro and headed down to the​ Ile de la Cité​ for a touristy bike trip organized just for us. Gliding around like swans on big cruiser bikes, we had a couple of hours of history and sightseeing thanks to Pierre, the local history guide. 

I saw some sites I had never seen, and learned some facts I didn’t know, and overall it was a pleasant way to spend the morning while we waited for things to kick off in the afternoon…
Wallace fountains


Shakespeare and Company


St. Sulpice, the “Magic Line” featured in the Da Vinci Code


Arènes de Lutece. 

TdF Saturday July 23

Today we are in Paris, but the race is still bring decided in the Alps. We had the morning to ourselves, so after a big hotel breakfast Vlad and I set out for a walk around. We walked up the Avenue de la Grande Armée, past a drool-worthy array of motorcycle shops, until arriving at the Arc. 


We got all the way to the Eiffel Tower, which looked especially majestic in the bright blue sky. An exceptional melon with some nice Spanish ham made for a very pleasant lunch. 


We crossed the Seine and made our way back to the hotel, passing various historic monuments as we went. Here is a World War I Memorial featuring poetry by Allan Seeger, whom I have written about before.


Then we watched most of the stage as a group at the hotel, and met the final additions to our party: a family whom Mummu gave the trip to after they entered a drawing. They have three kids, and the entire family are big sports fans, crazy for cycling and all sorts of other things. It was an exciting stage, with mountains and rain and crashes and a very tense battle for second and third place. However, as I have mentioned before, it just isn’t the same for me without the commentary I’m used to. I have no idea how much Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen bring home each year, but they are worth every penny of it as far as I’m concerned. Even if Phil does seem increasingly fuzzy on some of the facts…

We had dinner at one of the restaurants we wished we had found the night before, featuring a big seafood platter on ice and a whole complicated assortment of artisanal oysters. Delicious!

Characters 


A lot of people dress up in silly costumes before heading out watch the race go by. Not counting the MAMILs of course (middle aged men in Lycra) like me, who might be the silliest of all. 

Some people don’t need to dress up…

And PS, I don’t think I took any of these pictures… We are starting to share photos among the group, so thank you Maribeth and Stuart. 

TdF Friday July 22

On Friday we transferred from Villars to Paris. The first sprinkles fell as we were loading the van, and the rain became torrential as we drove. That was really the only rain we saw… All our rides were under clear skies. 

Villars, as I’ve said before, was beautiful, as was that whole region. Here’s a couple more pics from the Alps. 


The drive to Paris took most of the day, and we were very ready to check in to the Meridien Etoile, a workhorse hotel nicely located near the Porte Maillot. When we got there, the race was almost over, but Vlad convinced one of the bellmen to pull it up on his computer screen, so we got to see the finish. 


Manny and Marybeth had purchased a museum pass that needed picking up, so Vlad and I joined them for the walk. 

It turned out to be further than we anticipated, so eventually we sent Manny on ahead while the rest of us had a drink in front of the Madeleine. 

Sadly, the tourist office was closed, but it’s hardly a bad thing to walk around Paris on a summer afternoon. 

But now it’s 8 pm, and dinner time. Vlad has spent quite a bit of time in Paris, and in general is seldom in doubt about what ought to happen next. He vetoed several restaurants, and so found himself in charge of picking one.  We walked for an hour, but finally mutinied… we ended up having a thoroughly marginal meal at the next place we found. It was too bad, because we were just a few blocks from lots of good eats. 

The peloton in slo-mo

I took this video while crouched down on the side of the road in the lee of a concrete barrier. The riders had just come through an intermediate sprint point, so they were rolling fast but not pushing. That’s why you’ll see some riders kind of standing up, stretching their legs a bit. 

I have a poster at home titled Tour de France with two photos by Robert Capa: in the first, the crowd is looking right in anticipation of the racers coming by, and in the second they are looking left at the departing peloton. The gag is that you don’t actually see any bikes at all… Blip and they’re on their way somewhere else. I was glad to have the iPhone video camera so I could capture a little more.

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