Sunday, 2 August 2009

Summer Rain at the Tour de France

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Tour de France


Paul and I are camping beside the road at the Col du Firstplan. It's Stage 13 of the Tour and the route goes from Vittel to Colmar. This place is the last climb of the day before a 20km descent down to the finish.

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Sleeping overnight was pitiful. First a bunch of Norwegians kept as awake with revelry. Then the rains came. I was locked up tight in my bivvy, though it's not easy sleeping in a coccoon being pelted with rain one inch from your face! Paul fared much worse as he was sleeping out with only a sleeping bag. Inevitably he got drenched. So much so that he eventually got up and walked down the hill to the nearest village and back. This was merely for something to do and a vain attempt to get warm!

I eventually came too about 6am to find the Tour workers had arrived to put up the climb finish paraphernalia. The police were around too and were waking people so that they could move their vehicles. As luck would have it this involved waking the Norwegians! What fun. It took several exhortations from the maintenance crew and the Police before they could be eventually roused. They didn't look too happy. Us? We basked in schadenfreude!

Paul was still soaking wet but was making himself useful by volunteering to help the set-up crew. At first they were reluctant to accept but eventually they relented and he took a hand at building the sign that marked the finish of the climb.

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It was a long long day as we whiled away the time until the Tour was due to arrive. The caravan would probably arrive about 3pm and the race itself towards 5pm. We generally just wandered around and visited the people in the trailers and tents. We ate what food we had; mostly bread and cheese, though I later went for a walk in the woods and picked some raspberries.

In return for his work Paul was able to borrow the can of paint the crew had used and we spent a bit of time writing messages on the road.

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It was still raining on and off during the day and it didn't bode well for taking photographs. When the caravan finally arrived it was still raining and the people on the trucks seemed reluctant to bother with throwing out the goodies. Our haul was pathetic though we did manage a packet of crackers each!

Eventually the race itself arrived with the first four riders reasonably spread out. I tried my best to get some shots but it was way too dark really. As the fractured peleton came over the hill we recognized some of the riders as they struggled to put on rain-jackets for the descent.

When everyone had gone by we got all our gear together and left to climb back up the Petit Ballon. We were aiming for the Ferme-Auberge where we thought we could find a room for the night and get some decent food as well as dry all our gear off.

The walk itself was not too bad as we eventually climbed above the cloud layer and into the sunshine. The climb took us a couple of hours and we eventually arrived at the Ferme-Auberge. After some negotiations we were finally able to bag a room. It seemed as though they were a bit wary of us at first but because we had already been there twice in the last few days they relented. Ensconced in our room we unloaded all our gear, turned the heaters on full blast and cleaned up in the shower.

We then traipsed downstairs for a gargantuan meal. Soup followed a giant piece of mincemeat pie. Paul asked for extras and was shocked to be given a piece as big as the first! Luckily we were able to save a piece of this for our lunch tomorrow.

After a couple of large beers we crashed out to get some much needed sleep.