Sometimes it is all in the timing. Sometimes I fluke it, like being in Annecy to see the start of a stage of Le Tour de France. But sometimes timing is not quite on my side - like today.
Annecy, a beautiful lakeside town, surrounded by mountains and steeped in history, was the scene of the second last stage of the historic 100th Tour de France and my very first tour experience.
Le Tour de France is nothing less than a spectacle and transforms every city, town and village that it visits. Those places both bid and pay heavily for the privilege of being included on the route each year, but the publicity and tourism that it brings is worth its weight in gold.
The day before the Tour came to town, I did THE thing to do - I went cycling. Although I was lycra-free in a clearly lycra-preferred zone (and on a rented girly bike with a basket), I enjoyed cycling around the dedicated bike trail around the lake as much as all the shiny people did.
After getting up early to catch all the action of the Tour circus under construction, I scored a ringside spot against the railing, ready to watch the teams doing their official sign-in before starting for the day. With zoom lens poised, I had timed it that I could get to see a few of the teams on stage before having to leave to catch the train to Paris.
That’s where I got the timing wrong. The crowds were building all around town as I clapped and cheered through two hot hours of pre-start entertainment and give-aways. As the time ticked by, I started getting nervous. Surely the riders would be coming out any minute? No. I had forgotten about the all the official cars, the police vehicles and the publicity caravan that had to make their way out onto the road first. The caravan is a major procession of decorated cars (lasting about 45 minutes), giving away sponsors‘ product along the road ahead of the race. It’s an exciting and integral part of the whole Tour and I saw first-hand how passionate people are about catching the merchandise.
I didn’t see or get a single photo of a cyclist but it was worth more to get the whole experience that is Le Tour de France. But now comes the Champs-Elysees.
The air of excitement and anticipation right now in Paris is infectious and this time the timing couldn’t be more perfect.