Sunday, July 25 was the final day of le Tour de France. As always, it ended in Paris on the Champs-Elysées. I have never been that interested in bike racing, but I followed it in the office with the sports editors who always have the television on, and by the end, I was really excited to see the last stage in person.
The weekend also brought a visit of a good friend’s parents, who, completely unaware of the race, booked a hotel right on the biker’s route.
On the way to meet them, I squeezed through the masses already lining the road in anticipation of the Peloton (pack of bikers). People were clad in their team’s or country’s colors and even some in full biking gear, waving flags and banners.
The doorman directed us to a designated room where hotel guests could watch the race from the second floor: Quelle Chance!
The last day’s stage started in Montereau-Fault-Yonne, 60 miles south-east of Paris. Before they arrived, there was a huge parade featuring advertisers and sponsors – from a sausage company to laundry detergent. Even the national police were on display.
We had the best view in the city: no one in front to block us and we could see everything from the balcony. It became our own little club box too, where we could cool off in the shade on a nice couch and watch the race on the flat screen.
As they finally rounded the corner onto our street, the lane erupted with fans cheering and making every noise imaginable. I had been warned, but hadn’t prepared my camera trigger finger and so wasn’t fast enough to get a picture of the first couple riders.
Fortunately, they circled Paris eight times, so the next time I was ready.
Amid fans yelling, there was Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador (Lance’s teammate and soon-to-be tour victor). It’s amazing how fast they were going — you can’t tell from watching the television. And even though he didn’t win, Lance still came in third, pretty good for someone two months shy of 38.
It was so great to see the race in person.