Tuesday, July 7, 2009


If you don't appreciate Le Tour, ("the line bewteen insanity and genius is ... a fine one") you've never ridden a bike. If you've ridden a bike, let alone raced one, you know these men - shaved, bronzed, pumped and at the mercy of the advertising dollar and the search for world glory - are the ultimate athletes in the greatest sporting event on the planet.

At last the timing was right. A short drive from our retreat, in the 36 degree heat, this time we get to see it live. We managed to negotiate our way through road closures and country gendarmerie in a Chevy Chase worthy arm waving exercise of going round endless roundabouts before finding a spot to park with only a 10 minute walk to the course. Little boys on bikes with their fathers, lots of young men, one mountain biker next to me skipping work for an hour, one reading a science magazine, quite a few mums and dads, a grandmother and young boy, and no little girls, none.

A 2 hour circus caravan of advertising and promo, with samples of lollies, drinks, keyrings, hats, bags, you name it and it was thrown at you, precedes the racers.

Finally, 4 helicopters are buzzing, a lead car drives past his loudspeaker telling the crowds some details of what is happening just behind  'there is a 4 man breakaway with the peleton 10 minutes behind' , and the leaders fly past to screams of ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ.

The mountain biker has to get back to work. He likes Cadel Evans. He doesn't like Lance Armstrong. Does anyone like Lance Armstrong, apart from Lance?

Minutes later, a motorbike pulls in close, a handsome young policeman is off running up the road, suddenly dashing back for his yellow flag, then up the hill again, all blue and boots. He is the warning flag waver just in front of the railway crossing, and no sooner is he in place than they appear, a multicoloured canopy of heads, around the corner , down the hill, past the policeman swinging his yellow triangle through 90 degrees, over the railway lines, a hard left in fornt of us, and in seconds they are gone...

...as a local farmer plows on, regardless.

Millions are seeing this on television. Turning around to walk back to the car we are reminded that everything and everyone here is watched over by the monumental Mont Sainte Victoire, and the ghosts of Cezanne and Picasso.

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