July 22/04 10:23 am - Redden Report from TDF
Posted by Editoress on 07/22/04
Photographer Chris Redden is back at the Tour again this year, and has decided to try his hand at writing as well as photos. Here are his impressions from his 5th day at the Tour.
July 21st, Stage 16
The air was filled with excitement today as the crowd waited to see who would show their domination on the slopes of Alpe d'Huez. There is a definite anti Lance/anti Postal feel in the crowd. There was a lot of booing when anyone from Postal went past and particularly when Lance went past. I was there where Lance passed Basso so the crowd was going crazy and there was too much cheering to hear anything else but part of the crowd is not happy about Lance winning. Apparently the crowd and the public do not like an American coming to France and making history in THEIR race. According to Postal Management , there were several threats against Lance for this stage. In fact, the team car did have Sheryl in it but it also had security personnel as well. There were a couple of riders that flatted on course in the same area, and Postal even sent someone from the Team to check out the area to make sure no sabotage had happened. They found nothing on course, thank goodness. The security was also tight around the podium area with a large police presence. There were a million people on the mountainside today according to the organizer and some people came 3 days in advance just to get their place on the hill. We drove up last night and the road was already closed to regular traffic. If you wanted to see this stage , you had to drive up at least the day before and it will take at least till tomorrow morning to get off the mountain.
When I spoke to Lance today he had this to say about the stage "It was a very tough stage. I was quite surprised by the time gaps at the end. I do think this mountain should be included in the Tour as it is a classic Mountain stage, but I think that they should have barricaded the entire route." Apparently it was a bit of a free for all at the bottom part of the course and he maybe didn't feel quite as safe as he would have liked.
A cameraman from OLN said it was 'insane' on the motorcycle ride up. There was barely enough room to get a motorcycle through the crowd let alone a team car. Sheryl did get the podium flowers again, as if you would expect anything different.
One thing that really makes the Tour special for the people of France is the Caravan. This is a group of promo vehicles that precedes the riders by an hour and throw out all kinds of gifts to the crowd. The crowd goes wild for this stuff and it also helps to pass the time. I was at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere and I had a bunch of kids come up and ask for some cadeau. They saw the 'Tour de France' sticker on the car, and the Tour means gifts to them.
The Caravan is made up of all kinds of weird looking vehicles that promote one thing or another. There are Gifi (Kids stores), Euro Disney, Spiderman (the movie), the Police, Cheese companies, PMU (a gambling company), Boulangere ( Bread/dessert company), Mousaka, Haribo (Candies), Aquarel (Water), Febrese (something to make the crowd smell better), Skoda (cars), Champion (Supermarket), Antargaz (Propane), and some things that I simply can't figure out what they do. The people in the vehicles throw all kinds of promo stuff to the spectators. Some are samples of their product (cheese and bread) and some give key chains, t shirts , pens ,magnets, comic books, and green cardboard hands to name a few. It is hard not to get caught up in the frenzy.
One last thing, I do want to say 'hi' to all of the Canadians that have taken the time to say something when they see me. It is always nice to greet a fellow 'Canuck' when you are on the road.
I now have to see how long it will take us to get off the mountain. If you don't hear from me tomorrow you will know why.