Stage 13: Carnival on the Col

IMG_2239Watching the Tour de France at about 3 km from a mountaintop finish surpassed all expectations. Thanks Thomson Tours for arranging a brilliant experience: getting us right to the tents on a bus, and providing food, drinks, and television coverage of the race in English. We had time to walk up to the Arrive Village and get a sense of what it will be like for the riders to go up, up, up to the finish line. The road was lined with camper vans, tents, and people who cycled up.

IMG_2203Happy coincidence the tents were set up across the road from Norwegian eye candy. These delightful group of fans from Bergen and Stavanger kept us amused all afternoon. We especially enjoyed watching them being interviewed by Norwegian television. Two of them danced almost all day, much of it in carrot and banana costumes. The people viewing was so fantastic that when the caravan went through it was almost a distraction.

The Thomson cyclists rode up the Col (the first HC or beyond categorization climb of the Tour) and met us at the tents. Chamrousse ski resort rests at the top of about a 20 km climb, with an average 7% incline. Our tour guide Jacinta heartily encouraged us to express ourselves, even stopping at the grocery store for us to pick up last minute costume supplies. My fellow spectators got into the spirit of mountainside viewing and dressed up: Patrick as Willie Nelson, James as Wolverine, and Kris as, um, an Aussie swimmer (?). I had my California flag, Tony and Sandy had their Melbourne football jerseys, and there were several Australian flags.

We all gathered at the tents put up and protected by Thomson Bike Tours for 4 days. We had Sky television race coverage in English! This attracted a big crowd of other fans. This helped us not forget that it is a bike race. We knew to expect the yellow jersey Vincenzo Nibali to come up the road first. What was surprising is how much time passed before the next two riders. He added to his lead and now has a 4 minute cushion. Essentially only a catastrophe like a crash will keep him from the top of the podium in Paris. Tonight he collected the stage winner’s trophy, the yellow jersey and the polka dot jersey. His nickname is the Shark and we are seeing more inflatable sharks and other shark images popping up along the roadside. 


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