It is a long-term aim of mine to try and see the Tour De France every year. When the route is revealed I pour over it for extended periods trying to work out the best, or maybe just the closest stage.
For 2015 I thought I would try something different, lets see the Champs D’Elysees. It may be a demonstration stage for all intents and purposes, but the combination or worlds biggest bike race and one of the world’s greatest cities was just too tempting. Plus there’s always the sprint…
Rather than fly or take the Eurostar train, we drove to Compiégne (incidentally the start city of Paris Roubaix), and took the SNCF to Paris Nord on race day. We needed bikes, and we didn’t want to take a van. cue two “owned” Bromptons and two hired Brompton M3Ls courtesy of the Brompton Dock. Our stuff, camping gear and four bikes easily went in the boot, no worries on the train, no worries getting around from campsite to restaurant, no worries getting around Paris. We were in business.
Four bikes, one boot.
We made camp at a charming municiple campsite and had a pre-dinner fiddle with the bikes. Of the hired Bikes; one had rear puncture, and with no spare tube it was backie time to the restaurant. Despie a few hairy moments the brommie was surpisingly stable twos-up. Steak/frites/wine and exploring the town made for a fantastic evening.
Race day. A coissant order the previous evening saw our breakfast delivered to us at 7am. Quick train ride and cards. (shithead). No seats, no matter.
We managed to get a decent place on the champs (via mussels and snails for lunch) with sight of the finish.
Paris is always deep in atmosphere, its like soup. Tour De France day is another level entirely. The heritage, the home fans’ enthusiasm for the sport and the extraordinary setting make this the greatest show on earth. We sat for hours and dinned out on the electricity buzzing through everyone. Then came the peloton.
Speeds were out of this world considering that every pair of legs had three weeks racing on them. Usually when watching pro cycling you wait hours, then its gone in 3 minutes. Because the Champs is made into a circuit for the final Tour de France stage you get to see them 10 times, on both sides of the road. Hardcare fans dream of watching on Alp Duez or Mont Ventoux, but for quantitiy (and a decent bit of quality): this can’t be matched.
Best view in the house.
This guy got too close, not sure what the French translation for Police brutality is, only what it looks like.
It rained, hard. The Bromptons got a lot of attention as they always do everyhwere (but London). An Elderly Frenchman asked how much they cost, he had to get one. “€1000? Fuck that, €1000 I get a car” he stammered. i guess he’ll think about it . Marcel Kittel continued his dominant form with a conquering sprint, and it was all over. Time to unfold and get on the train via some beers.
The brommies did us proud (as they always do), we covered 30 miles over the cause of the weekend. The punctured one had to stay in the car and was replaced by a Vélib’ hire bike once we got into Paris. The puncture was caused by the previous hirer jamming a 26″ tube in there. Brompton Dock were very good though and refunded us when we got back.
We got back home (UK) at 5am Monday morning, just in time for two hours sleep, then back to work.