I woke up this morning and I wasn’t riding to Paris as I had been for the past 23 days – I had ridden from Rome to Paris – and it feels as good as it sounds.
Today was our final official day of our tour with most of our group attending the Tour de France finale on the Champs Elysees in the evening. Stelle and I had an early morning stroll to collect tickets for our evening function and there were bike tour groups taking people of all shapes, sizes and ages up and down the thoroughfare that later that evening would be raced on by 169 riders of the Tour de France averaging 60 km per hour.
There’s something special about walking big cities in the early morning – you can dream like you actually have it all to yourself. Then you leap out of the way of a street sweeper with a water cannon and the dream is over. A later mid-morning stroll to locate our marquee for the evening emphasised the significance of the 100th running of the Tour de France. People were everywhere. It must have already been over 30 degrees and the crowds were massing up and down the Champs which was now totally shut down to traffic.
Our group entered our marquee at around 6pm which was positioned about 250 metres short of the finish line. And then the race started – for food and drink that is – you can observe the best and worst of people in a crowded buffet. Many people reconfirmed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – women hoarding chairs like at a Boxing Day sale in the 1990s (these days if shops have sales running all the time then what makes a ‘sale’ a ‘sale’? When prices are ‘slashed?) and men hunting for cocktail finger food – made all the more challenging because of the dexterity required to handle and transport finger food back to your ‘camp’. It was very impressive – we had chefs come out from the kitchen and prepare and serve meals in the marquee. The funniest moment for me and one that emphasises why French food and cooking is so unbelievably good was when a chef refused to serve his dish because he had no sauce left to ‘garnish’ the dish. The hungry people in the front of the queue of over 30 were pleading with him to just ‘let it go’, but he was resolute. In desperation a woman at the front of the queue dashed off to source sauce from another chef!
For this 100th edition of the Tour the organisers changed the use of the Champs with the Arc De Triomphe to be featured in a laser light show at the final presentations. So the finish line was moved down to the Louvre end of the Champs, near our marquee, and the riders, for the first time I know, rode around the Arc at the northern end of the Champs.
The peloton entered the Champs at around 8pm and completed 10 laps of the circuit over the next hour. And then it was over. Marcus Kittel won the race. Chris Froome won the Tour and a number of other riders were presented with their winner’s jerseys. Yorkshire was presented with the honour of being the starting point for next year’s Tour de France and then the laser light show began, using the Arc De Triomphe as a giant projector screen – it was quite spectacular.
So my tour from Rome to Paris is complete and so is this edition of my blog. Thank you for your support and comments. At times the blogging was harder than the riding – when fatigued you tend to just write what was done, rather than what was felt or thought – it’s harder to recall feelings or thoughts – at least for me at times.
Thanks to Stelle for her support – I couldn’t do either the blogging or riding without her love. We now have 2 weeks of rest and recreation together in Paris, Belgium and The Netherlands – and of course it will involve some cycling.