As many of my million readers know, as a teen I was a bit of a dork about cycling. These were the heady days of Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, and Greg Lemond and I spent too much time searching the sports section of our local paper for the miniscule mention of the previous days results and then waiting for my copies of Winning magazine that would have actual photographs and re-caps of what happened.
A year or so ago, I had been in Paris for work. I flew back to NYC and the next day was sitting there eating my breakfast and watching the Tour de France live coverage on TV when it hit me that… “DUH. You were just in Paris. They are in Paris now. Why did you not stay in Paris?”
Sometime later, Mrs. Robot (bless her heart) said something to the effect of “You know, we can go see the Tour. We’re grownups. We can do that.”
The Tour, as you may know, often starts outside of France. For fun. This year, the Grand Depart was in Yorkshire, England. Stage 1 and 2 were both near the little town where Mrs. Robot’s college chum lived. Convenient.
We stayed at a little B&B in the equally little town of Skipton. It was lovely. We enjoyed the fairly awesome weather and watched guys in bikes fly by.
People went nuts for the Tour. The organizers were apparently shocked at the turn out.
Good sweet Jesus. The Caravan.
Before a Tour stage you have a caravan of cars/vans/trucks that zoom ahead of the peleton (French for “big ol’ mess of bicycles”) and promote various brands and products. This was our first time seeing the caravan in real life (“IRL”) and it’s a bit outrageous.
The trucks are decorated like parade floats, but since they often have to go fairly fast (the ones in Yorkshire were hauling butt) everyone on the ‘float’ is strapped and harnessed in.
“Hey! Look! A sexy woman is doing a sexy dance while harnessed to a parade float.”, is something you’d say. Maybe.
The highlights are the Caravan, especially if you are a 7 year old or self-hating diabetic, were the Haribo candy truck and a sugar-y fruit drink company truck. Since we got to see multiple stages, we got to experience the Caravan at two speeds.
In Yorkshire we were outside of the town in the countryside and they flew by really fast and small amounts of candy were being hurled at people. When we were in the city of Reims at the finish line of the stage, the Caravan basically stayed there for about two hours and we were literally pummeled with candy the whole time (and I use the word “literally” correctly as candy actually hit me in the head).
The thing is: people freak out for this crap. And it’s crap for the most part. They FREAK OUT. If you come to France with some preconceived notion that the French people are very proper and reserved and classy - just wait until you see parents scooping free crap off the ground while yelling at their children who are yelling at each other. Moms with huge bagfulls of candy and microfiber cloths and flexi-frisbees fighting to get through the crowds.
At times it was a tad too insane and I longed to be in the VIP section across the road calmly sipping Champagne. Next time.