So that’s the end of my last Tour de France – watching the peloton on the TV, roaring around the Champs Elyseé and wishing I was there; especially on the Saturday night before the race finish when the Tour cars are parked all around Paris when they go out for a big meal. Show offs.
“See? Look at us! We made it!”
Watching all the vehicles hooting, especially the trucks, roaring along the Champs before the race gets in. Afterwards, when the cameras are gone, watching the teams cycle round the course in a slow motion lap of honour.
Three weeks ago I was on the road to Paris, standing on the high street at Epping, watching the commisaires setting up the intermediate sprint in the sunshine.
For the last three weeks, I’ve seen their photo finish lorry in every corner of France; the Alps, the Pyrenees, the muddy cobbles of the flatlands of northern France in the rain, the sunny south, and now I saw it on the Champs for the very last time.
What I would have given to have been free to jump on the train and be there for the day, but in April I did just that. I made it to a very wet Paris – just for one day, by coach overnight each way.
There I was, getting off at the Place de la Concorde just where the peloton screams around the corner and onto the Champs.
When I was young, watching Le Tour was an act of rebellion; choosing a continental sport instead of an insular England of isolated bigots. It was a rebellion and an escape; a breath of fresh air, a glimpse of forbidden foreign countries and different languages.
Now millions watched it screech through Yorkshire and down to London.
(a don’t stop till you drop production)