Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tour de France comes to Puivert

Today the Tour de France, the biggest sporting event in France and one of the biggest spectacles in the world, comes through Puivert again. The riders will start from Limoux and, after climbing the Col du Portel - a hill which I frequently climb while walking - a mere 290 metres to 601 metres by road - they will come through our village and make a sharp right turn to Chalabre on their way to some really steep climbs and today's finish in Foix.

The riders will pass by, in a flash, at about 1320 our time, but for spectators, the excitement starts a couple of hours before, when the "caravan" comes through. This consists of numerous decorated vehicles, like those above, of the sponsors, usually tossing out to the crowd samples of whatever the advertised product is. One of those above is representing le Coq Sportif, so I am hoping for a new pair of running shoes (:-i ) and the others are for PMU, a chain of cafes-cum-betting shops.

With the riders are their countless support vehicles, press and media vehicles and about half the gendarmerie nationale. There will be 6 or 7 helicopters wheeling overhead.

There must be thousands of people involved and we always wonder where on earth they are accommodated, especially in a thinly-populated area such as this where there is not very much tourist accommodation which is probably already under strain because this is the major French holiday period. One answer is that we are in the mountains, ski stations are not far away, and the accommodation usually used for skiiers in the winter is probably pressed into service for the Tour de France.

But we got up this morning to find that the vehicles pictured here had overnighted in Puivert (40 kms by road from where they will need to start work this morning), and that our local gite d'etape - accommodation usually used for hikers, cyclists and horse people doing long distance treks - had been full of persons belonging to these vehicles.

Sammy 2 is obviously an animated movie due to come out on August 6. We have not even heard of Sammy 1!

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