Stage 10: Tour of Chiens in Mulhouse

IMG_1799IMG_1819We got up early, packed and dashed for the bus to le Gare (train station) in Mulhouse. The original plan was to stow our luggage in a lockers, go to the official “depart” or start. Alas, in France there are no lockers in train stations, so we adapted. I asked a policeman to show me on the map where the Tour route passed closest to the train station. We schlepped our bags about 5 blocks and found a great spot for viewing the caravan and the start.

 The first cute dog alert occurred just moments after we sat down at a café for a coffee. I ended up taking so many pictures of cute dogs that Hetta and I joked that today it was Le Tour of Chiens (dogs). IMG_1855IMG_1866 IMG_1868

We had a lot of fun and it was easier than going to the official start. We nipped back to the station and made our respective trains. So glad I had this time with the WatLoves and great to see Nora and Grace Julie growing into adventurous young women.

 I bought a first class ticket on the train to Lyon because it was only E3 difference. I am not sure what advantage there is to first class other than better padded chairs and a plug for recharging my computer. Noticing a lot of all white cows in fields. It is an unfamiliar breed and it is hard not to think of them as ghost cows.

 By the time I got to Lyon I was feeling truly rotten from this cold. It is a bank holiday weekend so no pharmacies open (not even the 24/7 emergency pharmacy!) No room service. Just one lonely desk clerk who filled two teapots with hot water.  Got to my room and turned on the Tour and watched the last 34 km.  Shock! Contador crashed out. So sad for him and for all fans. Thought the break would stay away and then Nibali decided to write his name all over that last climb and crushed it.  He deserves the yellow jersey.IMG_1891IMG_1859

 July 14 is Bastille Day and if you think it might be like Independence Day in the USA with decorations everywhere, you would be wrong. They put all their money toward fireworks. I woke up from my drugged sleep thinking that I was in Syria. Then I remembered my original intention was to stay close to old Lyon so I could see the Bastille Day fireworks. Oh well. I am in it for Paris and it another 2 weeks on the road.

Tomorrow I am meeting the Thomson Tour group at 8:30 a.m. and gladly letting them lead me for the second half of my adventure.  I will be the mysterioso member of the group if I still do not have my voice.  (P.S. I sound like Demi Moore today.)

Viewing a Tour de France Finish: Lyon, 2013

I began taking an interest in the Tour de France when Greg LeMond won his first of three Tour de France races in 1986. He was from the Sacramento area and the Sacramento Bee dedicated lots of column inches to his racing. After a few years I began watching it from morning till night–each stage several times–on Versus cable channel. In the fall of 2012, the 100th Tour de France route was announced and I realized that I had the means to see it in person. I called a friend who knows France and determined to focus on a City that offered a finish and a start and settled on Lyon. And that is how I found myself in Lyon France on July 13 to witness the finish of Stage 14.

It was thrilling! We walked a couple of kilometers towards the finish line near the Stade de Gerland (soccer stadium). We were only 1.5 hours before the expected arrival of cyclists. We spent the morning seeing historic Lyon and watched the middle of the race on television. The race route in Lyon was a challenge with one section that looked like Lombard Street in San Francisco, and several hard turns into the last kilometer.  When we left the television we knew there was a breakaway (a group of riders that rides away from the Peleton or the main group of riders), but we did not know if they would be caught. In anticipation of a possible sprint, we picked a spot at the 1 kilometer marker where sprints often get serious and began our vigil.

I learned later from some seasoned Tour followers from Canada, to see the finish near the finish you need to camp out at about 8 a.m. and wait. We missed a lot of the parade (goes by about 2 hours before the finish). The announcers spoke in French, of course. Our neighbor at the barrier spoke a little English and translated. Then we learned he was from Bulgaria and spoke only a little French as well. Still better than our limited vocabulary.

Our Bulgarian friend said that the announcer was mainly telling us to keep our arms and bags behind the barrier and other safety warnings.  Gradually the announcer became more excited and began shouting his announcements with the name “Julien Simon” repeated frequently.  The official cars stopped roaring by and we began to only see gendarmes, then photographers, then we could hear the crowd roar let us know that they were seconds away.

The breakaway was still away! The first couple of riders came on our side of the street and periously close to us. Then there were a few stragglers (still going VERY fast) including American Teejay Van Garderen of BMC.  Several minutes passed and then the crowd roar sounded again and we say the police motor bikes and suddenly, boom: the peleton led by Team Sky and the yellow jersey on Chris Froome. Wow.

I did not learn the actual winner until we got back to the hotel.  Matteo Trentin of Omega Pharma-Quickstep (Mark Cavendish’s team) won the stage.  Julien Simon was close and said in an interview that if there had been a few more turns in the course it might have been a different result. Meanwhile all of the other standings remained the same.

If you are not familiar with the classifications: Overall leader of the Tour with the lowest time wears the Yellow jersey and is currently Chris Froome with a 2’35” lead; the sprinters compete for the green jersey and because there are points along the route and not just for top finishing, Peter Sagan is in green; the King of the Mountains wears red polkadots on a white jersey and Pierre Rolland is KofM; the best young rider, Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-Quickstep, must be under 23 and wears white.

After the excitement of the peleton, we walked to the actual finish line to see the set up. I bought souvenirs. My son Tevis had work to do so he peeled back to the hotel. I walked back along the course and stopped for a cold Diet Coke. I relaxed at an outside table and enjoyed a interesting conversation with a couple from Britain who earn a living transporting bicycles for tour groups and follow le Tour on their motorbikes.

I was hooked and wanted more Tour, so when I got back to the hotel I figured out the options for taking the train to Givors in the morning to view the start of Stage 15.

Post Script: Velo reported in the September issue: “It was Trentin’s first win of the Tour –the fourth for OPQS, following Cav’s pair of sprint wins and Martin’s TT victory– and his first win, period, since 2008. Trentin was considering going back to university, but instead opted to race for another year; it turns out he secured a different education, this one at the Tour.’

“When you work alongside a rider like Cavendish, you learn a thing or two,” Trentin said, “I just waited patiently and unleashed my sprint with 100 (meters) to go.”