One afternoon I found myself wandering through the streets of a little town in France. For hours, I made my way from cafe to cafe. It was a beautiful sunny day and the people were very nice. Along the way, I photographed this.
Durning the month of July, the sleepy little ski towns of France come alive to welcome the greatest bike race on earth. It is a beautiful event witnessed my millions of people lining the steep mountain roads of the Pyrnees and Alps. If you ever visit the Tour de France and you’re not a cycling fan already, I guarantee you will return as one.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. I thought my project was going to be wrapped up today, but it looks like I still have a week left. I’m very close though. I’ll keep you posted.
Every year in July, the ski towns of France open back up and throw one heck of a party. Fans and spectators from all around Europe gather in the Alps and Pyrenees to cheer on the riders of the Tour de France. On this night in the mountain town of La Mongie, young and old danced well into the night. Andy Schleck fans continued to party well into the morning, all the while chasing a wild donkey around town….but that’s another story.
It is that time of year again, the pro cycling season is underway. To celebrate, I thought I would share a common scene you will find if you ever decide to make your way to the Tour de France. The mountain passes are lined with thousands of RVs. Or as my European friends call them, ‘camping cars’. Fans will flock from all around Europe in these camping cars to cheer on their favorite riders. They arrive days in advance to get a good spot. It is a big party that lasts for days, and if you’re a cyclist, they will cheer for you as your ride by. You don’t know how many times a German, Belgian, or French family saved me by offering me food and water while I was out on a long ride. They just love their cyclists….even if you are a slow rider touring the countryside.
As you know the Tour de France is well underway. However, the first big day in the mountains has yet to come. It will come to the riders this Thursday in the form of the Col du Tourmalet. Yep, that is the monster of a mountain pictured here. They will actually be ascending the Tourmalet from the other side, descending down this side, then finishing on the climb to the ski resort of Luz Ardiden. You can find the full stage profile here. Just to put things in perspective, this mountain is close to 19km of climbing, averaging 7.4 percent grade. I would probably put myself in the top 3% of the world’s population in terms of cycling fitness (by no means am I bragging, there just aren’t a lot of cyclists compared to the population of the world). If I were to give it my best shot, I might be able to ride this climb in about 1hr 45min (ish)? That is based on my run at it last year, but I did stop at the sports bar 2/3 of the way to watch the tour’s finish on the TV with a bunch of European friends. I spoke with the brother of one of top riders in this year’s tour, and he told me that in training, Andy Schleck was putting in sub 1 hour climbs up it. That is the difference between the rest of the world and the men who ride the tour.
There is a good chance I will be tweeting live from my living room during this stage, and possibly providing some TV capture/commentary on instagr.am so if you are interested following me on Twitter this Thursday morning.
Photographic Note: This image is actually a composite of 4 images I shot with my old Canon G11. All I did was turn on the ‘panoramic assist mode’, shot my images, then let Photoshop auto assemble them. I was surprised how good it turned out. My hands were by no means steady, I had just ascended the Col after riding Luz Ardiden and I was shelled. I now have a 7ft long print of this hanging in my living room to remind me of the beating my legs took that day.