Thursday, 30 July 2009

Allez le Bleu

I was tired, and the alarm clock at 3.55am on Friday didn't help. But no matter how tired I may have been, a long weekend in France to watch Le Tour de France is enough to get me up!

After an incredibly smooth transition from taxi to Eurostar (despite Matt losing his boarding pass and us diving into the train as the doors closed) we once again experienced a smooth transition to our next train- la Premiere Classe of course- but that's where it ended for me. O2 had no network coverage across the majority of Europe and I was gutted. I had grand plans to keep people updated with my drivel throughout the weekend but without reception I was stranded like a Euskatel team rider.

We got to Privas without much trouble and, yet again, had perfect timing as once the obligates were complete (park the car, buy drinks, find the vantage point, set up cameras, pull out flags, whistles and bike horns) the riders came by. All that work for 30 seconds of watching people ride by quickly on a bicycle. I can understand how people don't understand this sport.

After much laughing about how that 30 seconds was the biggest thing to hit Privas for years, we decided to have a wander of the town. Can't bag it til you've seen it. It wasn't long til we stopped bagging it, thanks to the locals jumping off rocks and the bridge along with the open invitation.

Photos of Brett, myself and a local jumping off the bridge are coming tomorrow. Easy jump but it feels extremely quick. I loved it.

So back in Lyon we had only one ambition: not repeat last year's first night where Brett, Lucan and I all passed out by 10pm. Considering we had been up since before 4am it was quite a challenge. But nothing a few drinks wouldn't fix.

On the Saturday morning we were ready to repeat our success surrounding immaculate timing. Today was Ventoux day and the biggest risk of a stuff up. But as we all ate risk for breakfast (something had to top up a 'continental breakfast') I was getting amped- my phone reception was coming back! But the excitement was short lived as we got into hour 2 of our 5 and a half hour freeway traffic jam. Thanks to Twitter for keeping Brett and I busy while Matt alternated between a light touch of the accelerator, closely followed by a heavy smash of the brake. Many deep Twitter discussions later, we made it to the Bottom of Ventoux.

Not as imposing as I imagined but knowing its reputation I was suitably in awe. After over 5 hours of driving, 20 mins of walking and a combination of 2 impressive navigateurs and one impressive conducteur, we took our spot, set up cameras and waited no more than 3 minutes before the riders came past. It's not 'cutting it fine', it's 'good time management'.

The next bit got familiar- check out the town, get back to Lyon, try to stay awake and then get drunk. Easy.

While looking around Bedoin we came across the largest motor home I have ever seen. Motorbikes in the back, satellite on the roof, living compartment bigger than my whole London house, and most importantly: a tv on the outside for sitting on the side of le Tour course watching the race on ITV UK!

(Photo of motorhome coming tomorrow. If I have one more unnecessary late night I'm gonna break someone.)

After watching the rest of the race outside a motor home, we grabbed some food, watched some of the estimated 700,000 people come off the mountain and then bailed. Needless to say there was no traffic on the way home so the 2 hour journey took, well, 2 hours. Just in time to go out...

I'm still incredibly tired so the final installment (a night in Lyon and a day in Paris) will come tomorrow night.

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