Yesterday, Johann took a day off of work. The Tour de France was passing through St. Paul les Durances, which just so happens to be where Johann’s mother lives, and we weren’t going to let this opportunity pass us by.
The athletes were expected around 2:30, but we had to get into town early, as all roads into the village were blocked to traffic starting at 11:30 a.m. And by that time, I should note, the temperature outside was already 92 degrees. We had a quick lunch at Johann’s mom’s house, then left at 12:45 to go stake out a good spot at the side of the road.
Why so early? We didn’t want to miss the advertising. Just like during the Superbowl, the advertising is half the fun at the Tour de France. Only instead of sitting in your easy chair enjoying the commercials, you’re standing by the side of the road being pelted by promotional giveaways thrown from vehicles going 45 mph. Not just any vehicles, though. There were vans decorated to look like six-packs of beer, an enormous bottle of water and a giant tire. Cars were topped with galloping horses, a kangaroo and a Tour rider sporting the jellow jersey.
We got a pretty good haul: Four keychains, a pen, a hat, a CD, a newspaper, a bag of candy, a bag of pretzels and a fan designed to look like slices of pizza (kudos to that marketing team – it made us all want pizza). I was a little afraid of what the bottled water people would throw at us (ouch) but it turned out that they had a tank of water and were lightly misting the crowd as they passed by, which was very refreshing, given that it was now about 102 degrees.
After the half-hour parade of corporate sponsorship, it was time to wait. A woman and her two daughters were sitting next to us in style, with a fold-out table, chairs and a little picnic. They went every year, she told us, and said that the first sign that the riders were getting close would be the helicopters. Sure enough, before too long we saw them. They were way, way up there, barely visible, but this didn’t stop Johann’s mom from yelling and waving her hat at them.
Then the leaders rode by, in tight formation and flanked by police in cars and on motorcycles. The rest followed a few minutes later. I even managed to get a picture of the yellow jersey, which was no easy task given how fast they go by and how slow my camera is. Zoooooom. It was all over in a flash.
We spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, then Johann spent the evening on the internet to see if we had been on camera at all during the race. We weren’t, so the only evidence of our presence there is these pictures, and the ones at right, under “photos.” Enjoy!