Obviously I follow the Tour de France religiously, even of it does mean tolerating Phil Ligget’s increasingly inane commentary. (Next year I am going to learn Flemish and watch it on Sporza.) By the end of the second week it was obvious that, barring a jour sans in the Pyrenees, Bradley Wiggins was going to win. With that thought in mind my mate Lord Wallington called me on the Monday suggesting that we make a trip to Paris to witness history.
” Brilliant idea” said I. So at five thirty on a bright and clear Sunday morning at the end of July, six middle-aged blokes set off for Paris in a car designed to seat five.
It was a fairly uneventful journey, punctuated only by a bacon roll and a cup of coffee while waiting for the shuttle and an inconsequential wrong turn on the peripherique. Somehow, we assumed by luck rather than judgement, Lord Wallington found a parking space just of the Place Charles de Gaulle (L’Arc de Triompe). Despite having to negotiate three roads coming off the Arc de Triompe we all made it to the Champs-Elysées to join the hundred thousand other Brits also there to see history made.
We had a few hours to kill while the peleton drank champagne and generally faffed about on their way into Paris. Finding something for lunch was in order. I was very pleasantly surprised to find a place just round the corner from where we had set up camp offering a cheese and ham sandwich and a cold beer for 5€.
The publicity caravan arrived shortly after lunch, and while reasonably entertaining for a while, partially clothed young men and women dancing to French disco music on top of a truck does get boring after a while. What I wanted was some cycling.
Finally at around four in the afternoon the peleton arrived on the Champs-Elysées. George Hincape led them onto the finishing circuit because this was his last ever Tour de France and he had been a participant in every single tour ever ridden, or at least quite a lot of them. Shortly after that the attacks started, most of them were fairly short-lived, but one attack featuring everyone’s favourite baroudeur Jens Voigt and about a dozen others finally got somewhere and dragged out a lead of about 30 seconds. Sky and Liquigas kept it under control and with about a couple of laps to go it looked as if it was all going to come together when The Jensie took of again with a couple of companions. The move was always doomed to fail because Sky had decided that Mark Cavendish deserved a reward for all his faithful bottle carrying duties and sure enough with about 3km to go everything was back together. The Yellow jersey set about leading out the Rainbow jersey and shortly afterwards ‘Cav’ crossed the finishing line with his hands in the air.
Not that we saw any of that. Having positioned ourselves near the top end of the Champs, we caught a quick flash of the peleton every lap as it raced past our position at 55 kph. This video gives a rough idea of what we saw.
Neither did we see Wiggins presented with his trophy and final yellow jersey, but we did hear him announce the drawing of the raffle.
We hung around to watch the parade lap. After the race all the riders, and often the managers, do a lap of the circuit and in Sky’s case they included by Bradley Wiggins’ son. I did actually manage to get a photo of Wiggo in his yellow jersey, while he was doing the parade lap.
After that it was time to head home. We stopped for dinner in a place called L’Isle Adam, just outside of Paris. A good steak-frites and a beer later and we were on our way back up the Autoroute to Calais and the last shuttle of the day.
We arrived back in Wallington about 2:30 in the morning. To quote Wallace and Grommit “It had been a grand day out.”