09 July 2011

TDF - Chateauroux

IT'S ONE OF those things we just do. Ever since our first family trip to France in 2003 we have made it a point to go to as many stages of the Tour de France as possible. Kerri actually saw the Tour in person long before I did (she saw a couple of stages while on a summer trip to France back when she was in high school -- and even got a Team 7-11 hat from Raul Alcala, I think), and now we drag the whole family along. Although there is usually only about 1 minute of real action, what the Tour does exceedingly well is milk that one minute for everything it is worth. How? By passing out free crap!

About 1 hour before the riders pedal through, a massive caravan (parade) rolls through with motorized "floats" which throw candy, hats, pens, refrigerator magnets, coffee packets, laundry detergent, key chains, more hats, and even bottled water to the spectators along the side of the road. The parade often lasts nearly 40 minutes and if you get aggressive you can end the day with a real load of things that you really don't need. [Note: to be fair, some items are actually quite useful. For example, we won't need to buy laundry detergent for a while since I think we have about 15 packets 'X-tra' that a guy in one of the cars just threw down at our feet.]

Yesterday's stage finished in Chateauroux and we made the beautiful drive from the Charente in time to place ourselves near the sprint finish. The atmosphere was great (as usual) and the riders were a bit tense after the race (also usual). As we went back to our car we passed the hotel where BMC, Liquigas, and Saxo-Bank were staying and the riders seemed to be in a bit of a bad mood (not unusual, I might add, for Cadel Evans who always seems to be ticked-off at something or someone). Quite a few of the riders had fresh road rash from the spills they had taken earlier in the day.

Yes, we got free Bic pens.
...and free stuff from Cofidis.
...and what everyone needs: a hat umbrella.
Finally, the High Road boys led out a great sprint win for Cavendish.

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