Sunday, September 20, 2020

Poitiers, Tour de France

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
Tour de France, Poitiers 9th September 2020, caravane

Poitiers, Tour de France

Today sees the end of the three-week cycling fest that is the Tour de France. Thanks to Covid-19, it is later than usual this year, but it’s been no less spectacular, in fact France has looked resplendent in her late summer colours and I think the only bad weather was in Nice, of all places, on the first day. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Paris this afternoon as I know how unpleasant watching the final in the rain can be. Falling in September rather than July, also meant that I got to watch it on my birthday for the first time, and that was a treat. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
My Tour de France mask from the caravane

From the start, restrictions have been in place to try and eliminate the risk of a Covid-19 cluster breaking out and there were no guarantees that it would make its full three weeks, with all the teams still present, but it did. While the riders have played by the rules, keeping in their safe bubbles and wearing masks for their interviews, sadly some of the roadside fans have let their excitement get the better of them. Their masks slipped, or forgotten, as they carried on as usual; too close to each other and too close to the riders as they shout, cheer and run alongside them. It sometimes made for uncomfortable viewing.

 

We took the opportunity to catch some live action as Le Tour arrived in Poitiers on 9th September. Not wanting the hassle of finding somewhere to park or navigating the closed roads around Ed’s flat where the route was passing, we decided to arrive by bike. A logical idea for two cycling nutcases, except for the fact Poitiers is over eighty kilometres from home and the wind was cruelly blowing directly at us for most of those kilometres. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
A quiet and people-free spot to watch the Tour de France, Poitiers

Having cycled over four thousand kilometres this year and climbed numerous big mountains, many of them Tour de France favourites, recent bike rides have been nothing but a pleasure. The weather has been lovely, yoga has improved my core strength and cycling position, and my legs have powered the pedals with ease. I was looking forward to a day in the saddle, excited to experience the publicity caravane and cheer the pro-riders as they raced by, before catching up with Ed and Pearl for a family pizza night. It didn’t go as expected. Cycling into the wind took so much energy, every pedal stroke was an effort and soon things began to hurt that haven’t hurt for a long time. I was so disappointed with myself, but a restorative flan from a patisserie just outside Poitiers ensured we made it to Route de la Cassette, about twelve kilometres from the finish line, which we thought would make a good viewing point. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
Tour de France publicity caravane, Poitiers

We found ourselves a quiet stretch of road, with a bit of shade, and waited for the caravane to arrive. As is usual for us, we were mostly ignored by those throwing the exciting promo gifts like cycling tops, caps and goodie bags, but we did pick up a few key rings (and I do like a key ring), a packet of sweets and some broken biscuits. Whether the biscuits are already broken, or break on contact when thrown, will probably always remain a mystery. We then settled down for the long wait for the actual race to come through, our tired legs enjoying the break, our sore bottoms not so happy to be sitting on the pavement. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
The Tour de France, Route de la Cassette, Poitiers

It was a fast and flat race towards the finish line and all breakaway riders had been caught by the main bunch, which meant we’d cycled 86km into the wind, for no more than a forty-five second blur of coloured lycra zoom past. It was madness, but for the buzz and the atmosphere I would do it all again next year. When we watched the television coverage later that evening, we were so glad we hadn’t tried to watch it nearer to the finish, or on the bridge by Ed’s flat as in both locations the crowds were ridiculously packed together and we wouldn’t have been very comfortable with that. 

 

Well done to Le Tour and all involved for carrying on and coping with a new normal in this weird old year of 2020. It was an exciting race all the way up to the deciding final minutes of yesterday’s time trial, with a variety of teams and riders doing what they do best, pushing their bodies to the limit and proving they’ve got what it takes to win. 


French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
The Tour de France, Route de la Cassette, Poitiers


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