Each July the Tour de France ends it’s three-week journey in the heart of Paris, welcomed by enormous crowds, great fanfare and the intense, afternoon summer sun. This year I joined the throngs, arriving early and waiting patiently for the riders to arrive, earning me both an excellent vantage point at the Place de la Concorde, as well as a sunburn that is still peeling, two weeks later. Like any international event, the mix of spectators was worth the trek in its own right and, with a Brit in the lead, us Anglophones found yet another reason to bond together beyond the preference for speaking English – the roar that arose from our particularly American/British/Australian corner anytime the Sky team van (or riders) passed was deafening.
Here are some of my favorite images from that day.
The View: Hard to beat, close to the road with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Bring. It. On.
The P’tit Tour: young kids raced a partial lap around the Place de Concorde and the Champs-Élysées, fighting for their mini-yellow jersey. Great to see a girl take it all.
The Parade: In reality, just a series of ‘floats’ by big Tour de France sponsors, they mostly featured young, beautiful people gyrating to throbbing pop music. They went by at relatively high speed, but still did the job of waking the crowd up, making us laugh and getting us ready for the riders to arrive.
(The yellow jersey leads off, naturally)
(Why yes, those are marshmallows roasting over a fire on top of that car)
(This cracked me up – especially the ones with the giant cigarette lighter or Bic razor perched on their roof)
(There is a man, wearing very little, thrusting inside of a translucent plastic cage in an effort to sell laundry detergent, in case you thought you were imagining things)
The Riders: For those not familiar with the route, after leaving their starting point of Rambouillet, the cyclists wind their way approximately 80km to the center of Paris, at which point they do several loops around Rue de Rivoli/ Champs-Élysées to finish the stage, ending with a mad sprint down the boulevard towards the finish line.
(First pass of the riders through Place de Concorde – the leader here…)
(…followed by those riders giving chase, already…)
(… and then by the beginning of the peloton, or ‘little ball’ of riders that make up the main pack – in fact, not ‘little’ at all)
(the main body of the peleton moving through – the clatter of these bikes across the cobblestones was louder than I would have ever expected)
(Using the 200x zoom lens to watch the peloton streak by the crowds on the opposite side of the Place de Concorde)
(Our view down Rue de Rivoli, as the riders make another pass; the British fans ready and waiting, as their men push forward).
The Spectators – for the most part everyone was friendly and happy to be there. We met quite a few people who had been following the tour, stopping place by place along the entire route, which seemed like both an extensive commitment and a great excuse for a trans-European road trip all at the same time. This guy was the best of all – having a great time and more than willing to stop for a photo. With Bradley Wiggins clinching his victory (and the first for Britain), this walking Union Jack and his robust salutation of “Cheers!” to everyone that stopped to sneak a peak (or take an obvious photo) seemed the perfect way to end an exhausting and exhilarating afternoon.