Last weekend I finally saw the Tour de France live. I’m a fan of cycling and have been to the Track World Championships, but never to the Tour. Generally I find road racing uninteresting live – you wait around for ages and then they go past very quickly. I made an exception for the Tour since it is the biggest road race and there could be a good atmosphere.
We arrived at Issy, a suburb of Paris, around 1pm. The tour was scheduled to pass between 3pm & 3:30pm on their way to the Champs-Élysées. The hope was that this would avoid the crowds. A fair assumption since the roads were deserted apart from the police. Settling at a road side bar with a few drinks we waited. After an hour the crowds started to build and cars began to pass us more often. Then came the Tour caravan – a collection of advertising vehicles resembling parade floats. I don’t have any photos of this as the crowds were 3 deep (larger than for the cyclists!) and were desperately scrambling for the trinkets thrown from the passing cars. We largely stayed in our seats.
By around 2:45pm the caravan had passed and the peloton was scheduled to arrive soon after. Only they didn’t. The schedule was based on an average speed of 38km/h, but the riders were obviously going much slower and arrived around 4:30pm. It was a pleasant afternoon. I’m glad I went and especially glad I didn’t go to the crowded end of the stage. I’d recommend seeing it once, but I don’t feel any need to go again. Road cycling is definitely a TV sport.
Below is a video of the peloton passing us. The winner Sastre (in the yellow jersey) is in about 5th place, but there is clearly not much racing going on. The overall results had been largely decided by this point.
Here is our location in Paris on Google Maps (with streetview):