Taking a Stand at the Tour de France
Even if you’re not a biking enthusiast, following the Tour de France is an armchair traveler’s dream. What better way to see the country if not through the eyes of the multitudes of video cameras that are following the cyclists on their tour and via the Web site that reports on each location? It’s a virtual travel log without having to be on a bicycle yourself.
I’m not a biker and don’t really follow the sport, but when the Tour finishes at the Champs Elysées after 21 stages of a France-wide circuit (this year including a bit of Switzerland), it’s as exciting as any world class event. One year I stood in the heat on the Champs waiting for them to arrive only to blink and miss seeing Lance Armstrong cross the finish line. Another year I did what I thought was a smart thing and booked a table next to the window at “Le Drugstore” at the top of the avenue near the Arc de Triomphe so that we could have a nice meal while watching the cyclists flash by. It turned out to be a great way to see it as everyone else on the sidewalk was trying to accomplish what I never could achieve — one great shot of the winner.
This year I was invited by journalist David Andelman “to be his date” who scored tickets to seats on the stands at Place de la Concorde thanks to his many guest commentator spots on France 24. David, the editor-emeritus of the World Policy Journal, has held various illustrious posts such as American Executive Editor at Forbes.com, New York Daily News Business Editor, CNBC Washington Correspondent, a reporter for The New York Times and CBS News, based in Paris and is the author of two books, including “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today.” He happened to marry a woman I grew up with in New Orleans and this is how I came to know him…rather than via his formidable position in the media. This past week, he’s been a regular commentator on France 24 on the subject of the U.S. presidential election — a report we Americans are following quite closely (and with great anticipation).
David wanted the front row seats so he arrived early and got plum spots. The security now has made attending any public event an obstacle course, allowed entry only from Place de la Madeleine with about three or four checkpoints before given the go-ahead to enter the stands. We were there in plenty of time to see the “Caravane” of advertisers — a total of 35 Tour de France sponsors driving 170 vehicles of all sorts in advance of the bikers all along the way. We laughed our bottoms off as they blasted their way down the Champs and can only describe the parade of silliness as kitsch, corny and ‘very French’…but very fun.
When the bikers made their way to the Champs for the eight final rounds, about 6:15 p.m., we left our front row seats to lean front row against the barricades to get a better view. Catching a good photo is no easy task as they ride by about 50 kilometers per hour (km/h). Lance Armstrong was able to achieve an average speed of 41.654 km/h in 2005 (the fastest Tour de France in history) and the slowest was as long ago as 1919 when Firmin Lambot attained an overall speed of 24.056 km/h. (Wikipedia.org)
When the camera or smart phone is in your face, you miss the race. Fortunately with eight laps there’s an opportunity to see the race from several vantage points. Patty Sadauskas and Lisa Anselmo were positioned along the Tuileries and had a better view than us, able to be up-close without the barriers positioned along the Champs Elysées. What they lacked in the comfort of the seats for the four hours we were there, they made up in being in the midst of the real action. Patty got the best shot of Chris Froome, try as I might!
The last lap I recorded with an iPhone, as they rode into the finish line on the Champs Elysées, which you can view here: youtu.be/ijs1WV0WzUI
As we walked our way out of the area on rue Royale, we passed the riders’ buses, family, friends and staff, starting to wind it all down. They must feel awfully satisfied and accomplished…if not horrifically both exhausted and exhilarated. That’s how we felt!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(with David Andelman)
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