The past few days have been hectic to say the least. I had hoped to post my experiences at this years Tour de France last Friday but the events that were to take place on my leaving London last Wednesday have kept me from doing that until now.....
A couple of weeks back I had an invitation from my boss to go and see a stage of the Tour and not just any stage either, the seventeenth Queen stage with a mountain finish on top of the Col du Tourmalet to be exact. Of course I said yes I would love to go and so plans were put in place to fly myself and two other colleagues to France for a two day all expenses paid trip!
Before I go any further I'll explain why I was invited to go and see the Tour. The company I work for buys alot of lenses from Transitions who are a co-sponsor of the Garmin-Transitions pro cycling team. Originally my boss, the MD of our company, had been invited plus a couple of others by Transitions to see a stage of the Tour since we are good customers of theirs but he couldn't make it due to it clashing with a family holiday he already had planned. Because he knows I'm a bit of a cycling nut he kindly said I could go in his place so that's how I got lucky and ended up going on the trip.
On Wednesday afternoon I met my colleagues at London Heathrow airport. We were to take a flight to Amsterdam where we would board another flight to Toulouse. From there we'd stay in a hotel for the night close to the Pyrenees then watch the Tourmalet stage the next day and the following day (Friday) we'd fly back home. Simple right? Wrong.
Our flight to Amsterdam with KLM was cancelled and although we managed to board a later flight we missed our connection to Toulouse so we stayed in Amsterdam for the night and boarded a flight to Toulouse the next morning. Unfortunately the Tour directors decided to close the road to the top of the Tourmalet at 11am due to fog and rain. We didn't arrive in Toulouse airport until 11.30am so we couldn't get to the Tourmalet in time. As you can imagine we were all very disappointed. Transitions offered to take us to see the next days eighteenth stage finish in Bordeaux and of course we accepted. Ok it isn't the Tourmalet but hey how many times does one get a chance to enjoy seeing the end of a stage from the comfort of the corporate hospitality area? I for one never have so was very happy to do it. Before that though we took a transfer to a hotel in Biarritz, a couple of hours drive south of Bordeaux, close to the border with Spain and the Basque country.
Now I know this has nothing to do with cycling but I have to say my stay in Biarritz was fantastic, what a beautiful town. We had one night there which gave us a chance to have dinner next to the harbour then the following morning I went out on a two hour run using the coastal paths next to the many beaches. The scenary on that run was stunning. If you ever get a chance to go please do, you won't regret it.
Me at a view point overlooking the main beach and promenade in Biarritz
On Thursday just after noon we set off from Barritz to Bordeaux and took our positions in the corporate hospitality area just 150 metres from the finish line. As you probably know Britain's Mark Cavendish won the stage and I was super excited to have seen the sprint happen in front of me.
I took a at least 150 photos during my day in Bordeaux and below are just a few of them which I hope will give a flavour of the atmosphere on what was a very hot day....
Me in front of the Garmin van that was used to drive us from our hotel in Biarritz to Bordeaux
Corporate hospitality boxes. Ours was the smaller one on the far right
The view from the top floor of the hospitality box with the muddy looking Garrone River running behind the big screen
Fans wait patiently for a glimpse of the action
The Bordeaux tram service was cancelled on Tour day
My view of the finish line from ground level in the hospitality area
Cavenish at roughly 150 metres from the finish line. He demolished the opposition that day
Beyond the Peloton director Joe Finkleman. After I took this photo I shook his hand and told him what a fantastic job he's doing with the documentaries and to keep up the good work
Erik Zabel is there if you look closely
I found these Norwegian guys sitting on the bench but easily got them stirred up by pointing the camera at them and exclaiming To Thor!
The morning after the stage finished (Saturday) we took a 7am flight to Paris then a 11am flight back to London Heathrow. I arrived back into London around 11am and was home for around 1pm. Although I'd been awake since 4am I still had to ride the 183km Dunwich Dynamo night ride that very night. I got a couple of hours sleep prior to the ride although it wasn't the best of preparations for my longest ride (through the night) of the year. I'll post more on my Dunwich Dynamo experience tomorrow.
Although my trip to see the Tour ended up involving alot of travel in a short space of time it was definately worth it especially because I got to see places in France I'd never been to before. We didn't get to see the finish on the Tourmalet which as I say was a big disappointment but there's nothing Transitions could have done about that, in fact they did everything they could possibly do to make our stay as comfortable as possible so a big thanks goes to them for all their help and support.