The buzz of this year’s Le Tour recalled memories of 2003, the Centenary, when I covered the Great Race for Macquarie radio in Sydney. One unforgettable moment - meeting Bernard Thevenet, winner 1975, 76 who brought an end to Eddy Merckx’s reign who finished five times in Paris in yellow. I met Merckx in Paris and many other Tour royalty in three crazy weeks of non-stop action.
Le Tour is like a travelling Olympics. Many cyclists rank participation in the Race ahead of competing in the Olympics. TV screens cannot convey the enormity of the event with two Race villages, leapfrogging each other along the route. Each morning the village welcomes media, sponsors, their guests, riders and their families. A smorgasbord of the best country cuisine is freely available to all who are prepared to breakfast on crepes, stews, fruit, oysters, cheeses, and of course, wine. The bell rings at 11am when media and drivers run to their vehicles to ensure a place ahead of the peloton.
To secure space on the finish line to interview your riders involves skilfully weaving through the floats of over two hundred sponsors. Fans line the route, intoxicated by hype and alcohol, cheer as sponsors’ freebies land at their feet - food, confectionery, clothing, drink bottles … even beer!
Stadiums or large venues host the infrastructure and media centre at each stage finish where hundreds of buses and vehicles supporting riders and media congregate in varying levels of illegal parking. Kilometres of cables run from high-tech vans with satellite dishes perched on top.
Vive le Tour!