On our second day in Paris we were able to see the final stage of the Tour de France. After 20 days of gruelling riding, this is a chance for the French public to acknowledge the riders in the streets of their stunning city.
We arrived early to find a good spot and it’s lucky we did because the crowds began to build soon afterwards. We secured a position on a prominent corner near the Carousel Bridge near the south-western corner of the Louvre. With front row positions right on the corner we could see the riders gunning down the Tuileries before they took a sharp left hand turn and disappeared under an underpass tunnel.
Before the race we met up with a number of Aussies so it soon became ‘Aussie Corner.’ First we met Phil and Jenny from Noosa who have been here with a group of riders from Australia. Then we met Rob and Maryanne Harding from Adelaide. Rob was Principal at Linden Park where I once taught and they are the parents of Nicole who once took my class when I was on Long Service Leave from Magill. Then we met an American Army General and his French-teaching wife. He became an honorary Aussie by wearing a Fanatics cap. Finally, we met another Aussie couple who have just cycled 2800 kilometres through Europe. We were all part of a crowd of 100′s of thousands!
The pre-race caravan was entertaining with all the sponsors trying to outdo each other with their vehicles and floats. Highlight for me was the Vittel water truck with two attractive women spraying the crowd with water.
After a long wait, the riders arrived! The crowd cheered them on enthusiastically, although not as loudly as the Tour Downunder, we thought. After a 60 kilometre ride, they did 8 laps of the Champs Ellysee circuit in front of the crowds. We picked out Cadel Evans in his Number 1 jersey, Brad Wiggins in the yellow and Mark Cavendish, arguably the greatest sprinter of all time. They passed within metres of our spot, which was great.
Every 6 minutes or so they flashed past. There was a bit of a breakaway but the peleton reeled them in. In no time at all it was all over and we headed off for a 6pm cruise on the Seine, rather than fighting massive crowds for a long-distance glimpse of the category winners. Another amazing experience in the memory bank.