Jess and I are back from our European vacation and we had an amazing trip. I won’t talk about our whole trip in this post; instead, I’ll focus on the first two stages of the Tour de France we caught in Monte Carlo.
The crowds at the opening time trial were amazing. To our surprise, there was actually a lot of support for Lance. I saw countless French, Italians, etc. wearing Livestrong gear from head-to-toe.
Lance wore a Livestrong jersey during his warm-up on course – one of the benefits of racing for free (Lance doesn’t pull a salary from Astana).
We decided to walk to the top of the TT course where the riders do a 180 before the last climb. This was a great spot since we got to see the riders coming looking down the cliff and then could move to the barriers to see them suffering up the climb.
Kevin D from our perch on the TT course
Kevin D and I were constantly trying to predict who was going to end up in the top 5 based on how they looked as we saw them zoom by.
Several riders looked really strong, like Garmin’s Dave Zabriskie (owner of my favorite chamois creme – DZ Nuts) above. However, there was no doubt Cancellara was going to win. He shot passed us on the climb like he was riding a Vespa. Cancellara’s winning time of 19:32 puts his average speed at 29.8 mph – which is mind-boggling after walking the TT course. There was more climbing than you realize on TV and lots of technical turns. As I said in my Tour of California report, the pros are VERY GOOD.
Several different teams were staying in our hotel in Monte Carlo – Columbia/HTC, Quickstep, BBOX Bouygues Telecom, Euskatel-Euskadi, so we got to see the riders prep for Stage 2.
Jess and I with Tom Boonen
The riders all seemed pretty relaxed and were great with signing autographs, taking pics, etc.
The stage rolled right past our hotel, so we decided to watch from there. The “caravan” came by and you would swear that we were back home in Louisiana for Mardi Gras.
The caravan is a 30 minute procession that leads the officials, VIP’s, teams and team cars along the course. It includes over 250 vehicles and has every Tour sponsor, most of whom toss out free swag (thus the Mardi Gras reference). Most of the vehicles have extravagant themes (they look more like parade floats) and feature beautiful women dancing or throwing goodies to European house music. I had seen the caravan on TV before, but seeing it live is a totally different experience. With the speeds the vehicle travel, many of the goodies they toss out the car become lethal projectiles (I was also lobotomized by flying Gendarme key chain).
Overall, it was an amazing experience. This may have been our first Tour de France, but I can guarantee it won’t be our last.