Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Le Tour de France is coming!

So, Monday morning finds me on my way to France.

Ok, I'm actually on the M25 at 0800 am on my way to Epping but for me, today it's going to be France, it really is.

L'Etape D'Epping.

Because Le Tour De France is powering through Essex on its unstoppable journey to Paris.

I'm late. I've got a complicated timetable of medication to take. I'm a carer so there's someone else's medication to sort out. There are lunches to be made. I'm late but I've done this before.

Now I'm sat in a traffic jam and I hit Epping Forest just a bit too late - 0909 am, when the roads shut at 0900.

But I really have done this before, I know the tricks - they shut the side roads first and I manage to fight my little car onto the Tour route and as long as you can do that you are OK - when your trapped on the race route they have to let you out!

The plan was to find a remote spot in the forest and get a long slow view of the race which is what I usually do.

This time, I changed my mind - I saw that the crowd at the finish of the intermediate sprint wasn't big - I went for it.

I had to walk two miles through the forest and along the high street - just in time as everything was ready when I got there;

The houses were decorated, the shops lined with bunting and flags. The crowd barriers going up. Beer barrels being set up, barbecues being lit. This is a big day for a little town. Today this town is on the route to Paris.

There was still time to test the route;

Some people came a long way - next to me were a family who had driven down from Cambridge where the stage was going to start because it was going to be more exciting down here.

These lads were members of The Huddersfield Star Wheelers and they'd come down from Yorkshire where the first two stages were (I'd loved to have gone up there too) and now they were doing as much of this stage as they could before security got too tight.

This is the Timing Commissaire preparing the photo finish booth for the sprint, which carries a small prize but more importantly points for the Green Jersey competition sponsored by PMU (Paris Mutual) the French Tote.


In five hours time the whole world (OK Europe) is going to be watching this spot.
Everything has to be exactly right.

Here's the Commisaire painting the sprint finish line and setting up the photo finish cameras;


By now the route is packed with people, it's 10-00 am and we are fighting for our places. I made friends with a couple of local ladies who very kindly got me a T-Shirt from the other side of the route, while two of us kept our places.

By about 1230, when the race had left Cambridge, the thrills were starting where we were; every now and again the race officials cars would scream through. The Church Bells started to ring, the Police motorbikes and the ambulances started to speed through. The Tour is coming!

More Police, more officials - everything must be inspected three times - the Tour is coming!

Nothing must stop it's frantic chase to Paris!

And now at 30 mph, the Caravanne Publicitaire starts to race through and as each mad vehicle screeches past we bang the race boards and wave;

How much fun is that job? Driving a giant Teddy bear to Paris, or a huge bed on a lorry? Or a bottle?

Here's another bottle, on a Taxi (of course, it's Londres)

Meanwhile we chat to the young French lads who do the barriers and the advertising - spending a glorious July on the road. 

Then the Commisaires act out a little French tableaux for us. Madame Commisaire is presented with a bunch of roses - aaah!. Monsieur Commisaire fusses endlessly over the cameras and the sensors. It is like a little remote station on a deserted branch line of a railway - today the grand patron is coming through.

And now, the French Police take over the roads; soon it's the elite Guarde Republicaine motorcyclists;

Still the caravaine rolls on;

For me, best of all are the three cars of the CGT, the communist led Union which always has a major presence on Le Tour, either here with the publicity cars or in the medical cars or providing volunteers.

Most dramatic of all - the charging tableaux of Carrefour which gave us a foretaste of the flying Tour which is driving along the road to us;

Amazing, thrilling, what a spectacle!

Even the most conservative, irritated little Englanders in this most conservative of English towns is now completely won over.

Vive le Tour!

It's now 1430 and the race is late! - will it ever get here?.

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)
Click on a picture for a slideshow and better quality.

Home: helpmesortoutstpeters.blogspot.com

Contact me: neilwithpromisestokeep@gmail.com

No comments:

Post a Comment