Recently my family attended a day at the Critérium du Dauphiné in France. They had flown to France to visit a few friends in Provence, then drove north to visit another friend at his Beaujolais vineyard. Next they played tourist in the Alsace region. Naturally they spontaneously thought, "isn't the Critérium du Dauphiné right around the mountain?" Why not skip on over.
They sent me an email late one evening from Lake Annecy where they were now staying, "Is the Dauphine close? We are thinking of going tomorrow." Back went the excited email from me with various options. They decided to visit the start village just 1 hour 30 minutes away in Pontcharra, France. After a visit to the local Tabac shop to purchased L'Equipe Newspaper with the race details for the day, they were off on their morning adventure.
Less than three weeks earlier we had been at the Tour of California watching some of the same riders that were now racing in France at the Dauphine. Phil and Paul were there as well! And when my brother and sister-in-law were fortunate enough that morning to chat with Jani Brajkovic, Dave Zabriskie and Matthew Busche (the new Amercian Road Champion), one of the riders commented, "what are you doing here?" - Having fun!
A story in pictures follows of what it is like to attend a day at a pro race in Europe.
|road blocks - the first sign that an event is happening in France|
|mind the road furniture, and sneak in the back way, park and walk toward the action.|
The morning begins quietly. Fans at the start area begin to trickle in as the experienced event staff set-up for the stage start. Next get your bearings, find the start line, and the sign-in stage, watch the staff set-up and get ready for the race to begin. Another fan tip - find your access routes; the easiest way to get from the team buses to the sign-in stage to the start area. I like having the freedom to move around to experience as much as possible at a stage start.
|my sister-in-law, she's a pro at being a fan|
|the sign-in stage|
|Portable (expand up & out) building/trailer/trucks are used for TV crew, press, VIPs, and vendors|
|no portable toilets though!|
|a typical scene with Gendarme and officials hanging around pre race|
There is always some sort of local entertainment before the stage start, which might be the local French junior racing team or a local cultural presentation.
|The next generation of pros|
|big happening in town today, fun for the locals|
This is also the time to roam around, learn something new, and meet someone new. Like this very nice local man, who had learned his English as a young boy in the war. He was happy to practice his English again remembering, "GI can I have a cigarrete?", and "Mademoiselle can I have a kiss?"
Next you might have some time to catch up on the race results by reading L'Equipe newspaper from the neighborhood Tabac store where you may learn the time schedule for the day, the route, roster, time splits, who dropped out, and who is in which jersey for the day.
|0.95 euros for all the race details|
Finally the roar of engines means the team buses have arrived and out pops the some of the most talented cyclists in the world. Riders you recognize from seeing on TV, or online, or in magazines. It takes a moment to recognize some of them, others are instantaneously recognizable and you feel as if you have come to town to visit your cousin Vinny. Only this town happens to be in France. There are moments of hesitation; wait I know him, wait, I forget he doesn't know me. Wait, we are in France, he speaks my language, hey, I can actually speak to him. Wait, I have seen this rider 12 times at races around the world, isn't it common courtesy to simply say Hi?
|Is this a bus or a recreational vehicle for HTC-highroad?|
|Ivan Basso's bike|
|Bradley Wiggins in the 2011 leaders jersey|
|Matthew Busche - new US National Road Champion|
|watch out DZ is driving the bus|
|Leonardo Fabio Duque, wearing the white on red polka dot jersey|
|Vinokourov had some fans|
|Geraint Thomas and (I think) Edvald Boasson Hagen with the fans|
|Geraint Thomas GBR National Champion|
We had just seen many of these riders in California, and now in a small town in France, there they were again. The fun is having your photo taken with your favorite rider, or asking for an autograph, or capturing that one great photo. We now have a number of pictures to create a soon to be release Adventures of The Tour Hag - Part II post following in the tradition of the Tour Hag.
Now let's see some racing. The riders sign-in and line-up and off they go on Stage 7 of the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné
|Fans at the Start line|
|Team Sky to the start line please|
|Bradley Wiggins to the start line please|
|and they are off|
Stage 7 Results 1 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA) 3h 24' 30" 2 PINOT, Thibaut (FDJ) + 00' 07" 3 GESINK, Robert (RABOBANK)
You then go on your tourist way, knowing that those riders are out there for hours racing their bikes over some huge mountains. A few hours later you walk into a bar and watch the finish on TV sitting comfortably at a cafe table drinking a beer. What a rewarding and fun-filled day that was. And totally spontaneous!
General Classification after Stage 7 (Final)
1 WIGGINS, Bradley (SKY) 26h 40' 51"
2 EVANS, Cadel (BMC RACING) + 01' 26"
3 VINOKOUROV, Alexandre (ASTANA) + 01' 49"
4 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen (OMEGA PHARMA-LOTTO) + 02' 10"
5 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA) + 02' 51"
6 KERN, Christophe (EUROPCAR) + 03' 05"
7 PERAUD, Jean-Christophe (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 03' 30"
8 SIVTSOV, Kanstantsin (HTC-HIGHROAD) + 04' 14"
9 BRAJKOVIC, Janez (RADIOSHACK) + 04' 22"
10 VOECKLER, Thomas (EUROPCAR) + 04' 31
Until next year ..