24 July 2010

Stage Start of the Tour de France

Salies-de-Bearn (yesterday)
I woke up to discover the rain storm from the previous day had moved on. The sun was again shining on the Pyrenees.
I drove to the town of Salies-de-Bearn the other morning for the start of the Tour de France. The town is located west of Pau, northeast of the Pays Basque area. It is truly beautiful countryside. I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the start village area since VIP passes tend to rule the roost at stage starts these days. But it was actually quite fun. I scurried around, knowing that it is usually best to keep moving and looking for familiar faces at stage starts. 
People were packing the main street, I knew to use the side streets and look for the team buses. I had tried to come into town on one of the small feeder roads and ran into a blockade, so I knew they were bringing the buses in from the southeast side of town. I waited.
And sure enough they started filing in. They filled first the main street, but then piled into a large parking lot. The riders generally wait in the buses until it is time to sign in. They roll out individually to sign in, and often come back to the buses again before they actually start the race. The first few km of any stage start is typically ceremonial, a neutral start. The yellow, green, polka-dot, and white jersey will move to the front to begin the procession out of town, and provide the (long) waiting fans with great pictures.
The Start area:
As I was looking around I saw these nice folks:
Eric Zabel (hardly any of the fans noticed him just standing around, I was looking for Ja-Ja, but found Zabel)
Robbie Ventura and David Millar:
Lots of bike (including Mark Cavendish's)
Generally riders getting ready:
Signing Autographs (Carlos Sastre)
I then chose an area to watch the riders going back and forth, and they started coming by, I didn't get pictures of all of them, but they were there!:
David Zabriskie:
Ivan Basso
 Bradley Wiggins
Matti Breschel
Thor Hushovd
Andy Schleck
Lance Armstrong was the last one to roll out
It was great to see all the familiar faces again. As always I tend to enjoy really looking at the riders, and bikes, and what is going on more than taking photos. It is fun to make eye-contact, to really see what is in their face for the day ahead. I am a big fan. It is great fun to call out their names and to hear the other fans calling out their favorite rider's name. To hear different accents all laughing and having a good time together, enjoying the sport.
Then it was back to the farm:
and the final sunset in the Pyrenees, I sat out on the patio for hours enjoying the scenery. It was wonderful: