Tuesday, 21 July 2015

This year's Le Tour adventure

Mark took this photo of Jane, Steve and I, as we arrived at a col in the Pyrenees
We've just had our annual Tour de France day. This year we decided to make a real trip of it, and we stayed overnight in Massat, in the Pyrenees so we could see a mountain stage. We’ve seen flat stages through French villages, a hilly Yorkshire stage last year, and the dramatic Carcassonne depart, also last year, so this was something new.

our hotel, in Massat

The hotel was basic, but pretty and interesting. I could have done without the creepy dolls set out in the public areas,

..... and the bed could have been more comfortable and the décor in the French bathroom (which did not have a toilet) was fairly bizarre. 

However, the staff were lovely and the food was amazing.

It does look as if I am snorting this pomme sorbet with calvados, but I promise I wasn't.

The hotel was actually on the route for Le Tour, and it was incredibly cheap.

Massat is a pretty village in the Pyrenees, and it welcomed Le Tour with open arms.

There are bears in the Pyrenees...not many, but they are there.

Jane, Steve, Verity and Mark checking the Tourist information board

A fabulous brocante shop in Massat. There was so much "stuff" in it.

We sat in the café in the centre of the village, as the gendarmes argued with the café owners about table positions at the side of the road, and people began to select their viewing positions.

Mark, buying some Tour merchandise.

The barricades, ready to go up, to hold the crowd back....and keep the cafe tables off the actual route. Those black arrows on the yellow background are to show the cyclists the way to go !

We had decided on a spot just before the village. We had checked it out the day before and thought we would be able to see any breakaway that had happened due to the previous climbs, as well as the peloton, going through, just before they hit the final 2 climbs of the day. We reckoned they would not be zooming past us so fast we would not be able to pick out our heroes…but fast enough to be excited by it all.

Mark, and Jesus, waiting for the race to arrive.
It all worked to plan. We had set up by about 9.30 am, waiting for the caravan to come through at about 1pm. The waiting was nearly as good as the arrival of the caravan and then the cyclists themselves. Verity kept us informed about the progress of the race by checking Le Tour app on her phone, so we knew exactly what was going on.

Establishing shade was important
So getting those umbrellas right was crucial
We chatted, we arranged chairs in the ever moving shade, we had a pic-nic and we organised our yellow umbrellas, Sky vests and other Tour paraphernalia.

A gendarme was positioned next to us....she was required to stand all day ! It was very hot.

Mark, opening the wine, Steve, as designated driver, was very good...he did not have a drop. Others among the group did !
Waiting for the race.....after lunch, Sky jerseys set out so the boys would know who we were supporting
The caravan arrived with all its razzmatazz…..and we joined in, catching key rings, hats, wrist bands, bottles of water, juice, bags of various sizes, tee shirts and blow up pillows ( IBIS hotels advertisements).
I've seen this huge cyclist many times now....but it's still exciting......Steve was perfectly positioned to catch goodies thrown from the floats.

I don't think they threw out any pens.

We shared some of our loot with a French family who had positioned themselves nearest to us, and some Dutch supporters who had come fully equipped with their camper van.

We then awaited the real purpose of the day. A lone rider arrived, seconds ahead of the expected breakaway group.

The break away arrived
No one who could threaten the main GC riders was in the breakaway, so we know that a few minutes later, the peloton, with all our favourites, would arrive.

...and then the peloton....Froome in yellow, behind the Sky team.
We had a great view of them, as they sped past us….not too fast, as we had expected. Sky was in control of the peloton, leading the way into Massat, with yellow jersey Christopher Froome tucked safely behind them, being protected by his team.

This was the day that Froome had urine thrown at him. We did not hear about that until later. It does seem that the reporting of Le Tour questions how “clean” Froome and the Sky team are. Some Brits, of course, consider it to be just that the French never win anymore, and whoever is winning, or seems strongest these days is going to be criticised. I suspect it’s a bit more complicated than that, and after the years of Armstrong’s dreadful behaviour …not just taking the drugs, but the cruel and damaging denial that went with it for so many years….there will always be questions about outstanding performances. Froome’s performance has been outstanding.He is amazing. I believe, and hope that Sky’s brilliance has been that they have been one step ahead of others as far as the psychology, the science and the technology of cycling goes. I believed that when Wiggins was the hero, and now I think that Froome is just a superbly trained and honed athlete. I really do hope I'm right !

A great photo of Froome...provided by Steve....not sure whether he took it, or Verity did, I missed him completely, but for a change, after I had captured one image of the peloton's arrival I decided to watch the race itself rather than  through the camera lens. 

Anyway…..once again, being part of Le Tour has been a great experience. Sharing it with friends, as we did last year in Carcassonne, was a great way to do it. Who knows what we’ll do next year….there’s talk of Paris………Oh to see a Mark Cavendish win on the Champs Elysees! 


  1. Great times.

    I believe the Sky team and riders are 'clean'. it is very sad that Chris Froome is a scapegoat for all that went before. It seems very interesting that some of the media focus stems from comments made by Armstrong and Laurent Jalabert - both self confessed and/or caught drugs cheats. Why should they be believed now?
    I think the organisers have to take a tough stance in defending teams and riders in the innocent until proved guilty accord. Also the crack down on teams and riders caught cheating has to be harsh. No second chances!

    Maybe I am being naive, but I hope not. The alternative is to pack up the whole tour and go home...

    1. I'm with you completely on this Gaynor. I believe they are clean, and I'm cross that Armstrong's views are given any credence at all. I'm looking forward to the last couple of stages and hope that Sky's tactics, which seem to have been brilliant so far, pay off and we see Froomey on that podium on Sunday.

  2. I've never seen this race close up but know how exciting the ones in Turkey are when the peloton whizzes through. We don't get goodies though. The picture of the shop should be turned into a water colour or oil painting

    1. I couldn't decide whether the brocante in Massat was modern designer French shabby chic, or left over from a bygone time. The inside certainly looked as if "stuff" had been accumulating there since 1820. As for our bag of Tour give aways.....the grandchildren will have great fun with it all, and to be honest, we've still got a big bag from last year.

  3. Wow, you really know how to watch a race, don't you? Looks so organised and the photos are fantastic both of the race and the gorgeous surroundings.
    With or without help, to race like this, I think they have to be superhuman and utterly obsessed....

    1. They are obsessed, but then so are the crowds. The atmosphere is always brilliant. I love it. It was great this year, making a couple of days of it, and sharing it with our friends. Jxxx

  4. Frome has given an interview in last weekends Sunday Times but I haven't had time to read it yet.
    I wonder where you have enjoyed watching Le Tour most now that you have three different locations under your belts? I do remember your post from last year when all of the UK went yellow crazy.

    1. I think this year was the best Rosemary. Each time we've seen the Tour, it has been very different. Yorkshire was fabulous. Hebden Bridge knows how to party ! The depart from Carcassonne last year was special, as we were so close to the riders as they lined up at the start. This year was just a lovely 2 day adventure with our friends. The weather, the town, even the funny little hotel, Jesus looking down on us at our chosen viewing spot, and then the fabulous view we had as they stormed past us.......it was all fabulous fun.

  5. Oh dear, no toilet? Perhaps the urine-throwing incident was just an accident? Of course, I love the look of the brocante - wish I was there!

    1. Our toilet was just across the corridor from our room.....this was a classic arrangement in old fashioned French hotels/hostels. The bathroom that came with the room contained a sink, a good shower and a bidet. The toilet, shared by 2 or 3 rooms ( not ideal !!! ) was clean and never occupied when we needed it...so I'm not complaining, just aware that this was an old fashioned place, that had not been modernised recently.
      You, indeed, would have loved the brocante.

  6. Always fun to see the Tour through your eyes, Janice. What a splendid spot you had for watching it this year, complete with Divine Protection! The hotel in Massat sounds good for a laugh - except the bit about no toilet! Hope you found something in the brocante shop. Great fun! xx

    1. I remember my first ever experience of a French hotel. It was in 1976 in Paris. Our garret room had a bidet and sink.....the communal toilet was miles down the corridor.....and in the week we stayed there, we never did find a bathtub. Many older French ( and very cheap) hotels still exist where, hopefully the facilities are better than those I experienced in Paris in 1976......but are still pretty basic.
      Its a long time since I've stayed somewhere without our own toilet.......but the place was very clean, charming, the staff were delightful, the food was amazing.....and it was very very cheap.
      It all added to making our adventure even more memorable.

  7. Looks like a super occasion. The Tour de France has passed not far from us on several occasions, but we've always been otherwise occupied. One day.

    Just catching up with your blog and enjoying reading about your experiences. Like you, I've not had much time for blogging - or reading others' blogs - owing to pressure of work. But that's going to wind down from September.

    And I'm delighted to read that your regular check back in the UK was fine. You must be so relieved and it means you can enjoy the rest of the summer.

    All the best,