at the barricade – tour de francePosted: July 15, 2014
The last several kilometers of the race are fenced off, and the finish is lined with a barricade with sponsor logos. This is a virtual city, planted on top of the mountain, and destined disappear hours after the race completes and reappear at the next race.
The VIP’s are on the right, helo’d up or bussed up and share semi-truck trailers that magically turn into restaurants and vantage points. On the left are the everyday people of France who have hiked or ridden their bikes up the steep seven kilometer final ascent to watch one man conquer the mountain.
It has rained all day and mud is everywhere, but the people are polite ( except for a few on the VIP side ) and we have stood for hours 50 meters from the finish waiting for the riders while Jazz and up-beat music plays in a mix of French and English. We watch the race on giant televisions, and periodically the announcers wildly, emotionally explain the race in French. The great Contador has crashed and must abandon, and the crowd murmurs.
There are children here, dogs, hikers, bikers and people dressed up in all manner or costumes. They picnic on the back of semi-truck trailers but when the riders approach the final summit, the thousands of people who have lined the route cheer wildly.
Near the finish, two riders approach the top, an Italian and Pinot ( a local boy ) as they come to the barricade we cannot see them, but we hear the roar, and the thunder of the people pounding the barricade a thunder that rolls forward with them. These men are suffering, pushing through pain and the people cheer wildly. Pinot cannot do it, he is spent, he cannot overcome the mountain and takes second. The third rider approaches, then more and every one is cheered wildly.
This is the magic of the Tour de France.