The 2011 edition of the Tour is already shaping up to be a spectacular affair in more ways than one. A huge number of crashes and abandonment’s from some high profile GC contenders (though not the most in Tour history… yet), some superb breakaway riding from… yes you’ve guessed it… Tommy V and Johnny H and then a couple of combustion-engine induced ‘chutes’ just for good measure. Before we get on to the nitty gritty of this week’s #bikeschool post I’d just like to share with you all the mountain points and combative rider competition podium ceremony for Johnny Hoogerland after his horrific crash (courtesy of @Cycloboredom)
Earning your Yellow wings
All that mushy stuff out of the way, firstly I’d like to apologise for the lack of previously promised ‘live’ Tour blogging and tweeting from France. It appears France has not yet heard of free WiFi (or ‘WifFee’) and there 3G coverage is so poor, postcards would have been a more appropriate method of keeping you updated. That said, whilst I was in France I barely had time to send a few tweets out, never mind compose the kind of witty banter this blog has come to represent. For those that aren’t aware, my trip comapanions were my brother Andrew (@SteamyWynndows), and my most favourite of northern flavoured people Andy (@AndyMWild). Neither version of Andrew would say that they are ‘in to’ cycling the way I am but both are huge sports fans and understood before we went why the Tour causes such a hoopla and wanted to experience it for them selves as a sporting spectacle (my brother actually un-followed me on Twitter and Facebook a long time ago due to my incessant cycling talk but has now had some sort of epiphany which you can read about here).
I cannot begin to describe how amazing it all was. The holiday, the company, the cycling, the vantage points we found, the buzz, the hush of the crowd, the weakness of my knees (from not only getting a high five from Laurens Ten Dam on the Le Gois during the ribbon cutting ceremony of stage 1 but also a cheeky smile and wave in our English screaming direction from Geraint Thomas, Cav, Dave Zabriskie, Cadel Evans, Thor Hushovd and Jens! himself) I literally cannot write how great it was, so I’m not going to do my noggin-box’s memory zone too much of a disservice by attempting to talk you through every part… it is an experience you must do for yourself, and I hope one day you will all get that chance. What I have got for you is lots of pictures! Below is a fraction of the hundreds of shots we took over the holiday but they are the cream of the crop from my Canon on day 1. We started with an early rise to get off of Noirmoutier where we were staying as both routes off the island would be shut down at around 9.30am. Then, after a 6km walk in scorching weather and flip flops, we reached the Le Gois, which is a causeway accessible at low tides linking Noirmoutier with Mainland France. My brother and I holidayed on Noiroutier when we were younger so had the advantage of knowing the area a little (even if he is an awful map reader) and we headed straight for the ribbon on concrete running through the mud to look for a vantage point. Then we waited. And we waited for quite a few hours. but at no point did any of us think, “Oh why am I doing this? I could be by the pool drinking a beer!” The atmosphere, anticipation and eventually the publicity ‘caravan’ was intoxicating. After the caravan passed through, we waited a little more and an eerie hush fell all around with the anticipation of the riders. What happened next was truly amazing and I’m not ashamed to say I literally went weak at the knees. The peloton was halted for around 5 minutes by Monsieur Prudhomme for a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the Tour’s entrance into the Vendee region. And we happened to be standing right where they stopped. Cue a barrage of shots and lots of shouting rider’s names which caused them to look right down my lens. It was awesome. And then they left, as quick as they arrived. We then flip-flopped our way back to the car and drove across country, racing the Tour and made it to the finish in time to see the caravan again, get lots of free hats (most rather silly) and be in a prime location to see the finish within the final km. Those that watched that day will know how much the late crashes splintered the race in the final few km’s but this only added to the excitement of seeing riders coming through in dribs and drabs fighting to stay on and not loose too much time.
Anyway… I’m doing what I swore not to do… the pictures speak for themselves. Next week I’m hoping to have the photos and videos from stages 2 and 3 on here for you once we have collated our media resources.
Check back next week for stages 2 & 3 pics and videos!