I am not sure what is worse. Being back from holiday or being back from my trip to the Tour. I know that in my case they are one and the same this year. But after a relaxing week in Northern Spain by the pool it was nice to get in the hire car and head over the border to watch the race. Here is my diary from two days following the Tour de France in Catalunya.
Day 1 Wednesday 8th July – Cap D'Agde to Perpignan.
We made an early start from Spain and headed up a recommended coast road drive to our intended destination of Argeles Sur Mer.
The coast road went through a number of amazing little fishing ports and towns interspersed with steep little mountain climbs and lined vineyards. If you ever get the chance to drive the backroads from Figueras in Spain to Coillure in France, you have to do it. If you get to take your bike instead you will have really lucked out.
I can't recommend it highly enough.
Argeles was a pleasant surprise. An amazing beach and a nice little town centre with an enthusiastic crowd awaiting the arrival of the peloton. Thanks to GCSE French and a friendly woman in the tourist office we were soon setting up camp on the roadside just out of town and digging into a selection of baguettes and Haribo.
“Bon Appetit” chuckled a Gendarme as he went past on his motorcycle.
The road continued to swell with people coming off the beach and I think it was the proliferation of people that meant pickings were a little slim from the caravan publicitaire.
I wanted one of the Etap Hotels “wee willy winky” style hats to wear in bed. But the motorised king sized double that zoomed past didn't chuck one out in my direction. I got a Kleber tyres balloon instead.
The bunch were split up as they went by. A breakaway containing eventual stage winner Thomas Voeckler came by with the FDJ rider in the group beckoning the 9 deep crowd back from spilling into the road.
Then the peloton came by with Mark Cavendish looking (falsely as it turned out) confident whilst tightening the ratchet on his green shoes. A little while later some stragglers came by including Christophe Moreau and the clearly injured Robert Gesink.
The Dutchman had hit the deck and would later abandon with a broken wrist.
All in a swirl the broom wagon was past and the crowd drifted back onto the beach and into the town. After a brief coffee stop the days real drama started when the sat nav died in the car. A bit of ad hoc navigation back towards Perpignan got us back on the motorway and into Spain.
Ironically we drove past the Garmin team bus on their way into Girona for a rest before the next mornings start. I waved my fist and the offending unit at their bus... A bit of anger release I suppose you could say!
Day 2 Thursday 9th July – Girona to Barcelona
My Fiancee's family have an appartment just 15kms from the race route but with that junction with the Tour being so early in the stage it was another early start to get onto the beautiful coast road to Tossa De Mar. Another road that is great in a car (and looks better on a bike) you really should check it out.
The crowd were from all over Europe with various holiday appartments and camp sites being nearby. We spent some time conversing in a variety of languages and hand signals with the Albert Timmer fan club from Holland who had set their camp up next to ours. There were plenty of decent sized stones at the side of the road and they acted as impromptu chalk for writing riders names on the road. Inspiration for them as they climbed the Cote de Sant Feillu... I hoped.
“CAV IS GOD” “MILLAR” “WIGGINS” and a bit of blatant publicity for my club “FENLAND CLARION CC” were added to the various Contador and Armstrong related scribblings.
My chalk ran out before I could scribe “road.cc” (sorry Tony and Dave!).
As the races arrival drew nearer a mad Danish bloke started writing Saxo Bank in the road and then produced a bit of red roofing slate to work with the chalk and colour in his country's flag.
The trouble was that the caravan turned up at this point and the constant pounding of the vehicles meant that touching up of all our artwork would be needed before the riders arrived.
Pickings were much better from the vehicles on this day. So much so that the Timmerites had to spread out to get decent quality stuff. Our haul included...
2 polka dot casquettes
1 skoda bucket hat
2 Etap nightcaps (much to my delight)
loads more Haribo
Australian Tourism necklace
Festina fluro wristbands
...and so on!
The pelotons arrival was preceded with a number of low flying helicopters ferrying in VIP'.s.
The first rider to emerge from the hairpin below us and up through the beautiful pine forest was David Zabriske from the locally based Garmin-Slipstream team.
The main field were on his heels and both Mark Cavendish and David Millar to the fore. There was no sign of the rain that blotted the later parts of the stage and we enjoyed lunch in the countryside before heading back off the mountain.
Two magical days following the greatest sporting event in the world... I can't wait to plan the next trip!
How was your Tour?