Canadian Cyclist


July 15/05 5:11 am - Redden Report from TDF

Posted by Editoress on 07/15/05

Photographer Chris Redden is back at the Tour again this year, and here are his impressions from his first day at the 2005 Tour.

Ahh the Spectacle that is the Tour de France!

Today is July 15th and I have just spent my first day at the Tour.

Coming from North America, we have no real perspective on how big this event is and how all encompassing it is for the French public.

Thousands and thousands of people line the roads along the entire route just to catch a glimpse of the riders as they pass by. People get so excited that they are willing to wave at anything that passes along the road, including the Canadian Cyclist press car (Maybe they just get bored!) It is really exciting to see people, including lots of small children in a frenzy at the thought of their favourite riders passing by. People will actually camp out along the route just to get a prime spot to watch the race. Well, maybe it is just an excuse to party, but whatever the reason, it is incredible.

For those of you who have only seen the race on TV, you are only getting to experience what half of the race is all about. The whole French countryside is taken over by the race. The start and finish towns are literally inaccessible by car from race morning to late in the day due to the crowds and the structures that they erect for the race. On weekends, things only get worse due to the increased crowds. People end up walking for kilometres to get to the finish. Can you imagine North American fans doing this? If you want a place on or near the finish line, be prepared to wait for 4 plus hours to keep your spot. This is the kind of dedication that the fans have.

Everywhere you go in France the advertising focuses on the Tour. It is on TV and on the front page of every newspaper. The people really get into it. The race announces itself along the course by the caravan. This is a parade of ‘floats’ that preceed the race and throws gifts and candies out to the waiting crowds. Let me tell you this really gets the fans in a frenzy. I have never seen people get so excited over a Green Cardboard PMU hand. I will go into more detail on the caravan another day.

The race also has 4-5 helicopters that fly overhead of the racers. If you are ever in doubt where the race is, all you have to do is look to the skies.

Each start town hosts what they call a ‘Village’. This is the place where VIP’s, press, and racers go to be treated to something to eat or drink, or a place to go and get away from the crowds. More on this to follow as well.

Just try looking for a hotel near the Tour route when it is on. I have stayed 100km away from the finish of a stage, only to find the rest of the hotel occupied by part of the caravan, or filled with a race team, or even the podium girls. The race has a huge impact on the tourism industry in France.

Well onto a few notes about today’s stage:
The temperature here is 33 + Deg C.

• I spoke to Chris Horner today and he was hoping to have some shorter stages like 170 km instead of the 230 km stages that they now have. His comment on the food was “it’s pretty much the same every day. I could really use a stop at McDonalds.” I guess he earned it today. What do you want Chris? A Big Mac or 2? I’m buying!

• Lance seems to be pretty happy with the way things are going. When asked about who his biggest competitor was he said “ Myself” and then went on to explain how a racer has to pay attention to all of the things that keep them racing, like diet, sleep, staying healthy… He then went on to list "Chicken", Ulrich and Basso as guys he has to watch.

• Chicken (Rasmussen) said “I have accomplished everything that I wanted to. Everything from here on is a gift”. He also was quick to pick up the special Tour de France Polka dot version of a Powerbar.

• Sheryl Crow was by Lance after he finished. Sorry National Enquirer, they still look as luvey as ever.

Till tomorrow.


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