2015-07-14 Auch – Lourdes

Today’s photo shows the Tour de France about 10 minutes after it had set off from Tarbes on the first stage in the Pyrenees. An early start as well for me today as had to get up before 5 in order to make it to Tarbes in time to see the Tour. Had to wait until 6.15am until it was bright enough to set off. I passed about 50 gendarme in 3 minibuses getting breakfast in a cafe beside the campsite in Auch. They were obviously heading towards Tarbes as well for the Tour.

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Total today – 100 km. Total so far – 1020 km. The route profile today was much hillier than yesterday as I transition from the Midi-Pyrenees into the Haute-Pyrenees. A big advantage of the early start though, was that conditions were much cooler and I even poured away 2 bottles of water to reduce weight.

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Petanque competion in Mirande. This is a Basque part of France and there were signs up for a petanque competition as well as a country festival in Mirande.

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Hills were steep both uphill and downhill. The hills were short but steep this morning but the downhills were downright scary. This is a 10% drop for about 1km into the town of Villecomtel-sur-Arros.

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Crowd waiting for the Tour de France at Borderes-sur-l’Echez. I didn’t take as many photos this morning as I was in a hurry. Instead, of going into the centre of Tarbes and getting lost, I took a side road towards Ibos which was on the route of the Tour. I made it to this junction near Borderes-sur-l’Echez about an hour before the cyclists. The road was closed off with about a dozen barriers and 3 gendarme were on patrol. The atmosphere though was very relaxed and people were being allowed through to cross the road. With the bike and trailer, it would have been difficult to get past so I climbed up a stop sign instead for a better view.

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Lots of vehicles ahead of the Tour. I was too late for the publicity caravan but got too see the many official vehicles which also go ahead of the Tour. It is amazing how many vehicles accompany the Tour around France. There were at least 100 cars, vans and motorbikes ahead of the peloton and just as many following it.

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Peloton was still in one group. After watching more and more vehicles go by, suddenly a roar went up as the peloton came into view. There were no breakaways just yet and Chris Froome fairly stood out in the yellow jersey near the front of the race. In this photo, he is surrounded by the other cyclists but by the time the stage finished at La Pierre St Martin, he was on his own ahead of everybody else in the peloton.

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The peloton went past in a flash. In a matter of seconds, the peloton flew past and were gone.

After the last vehicle had gone through, the barriers were dismantled and the crowd dispersed. Within about 2 minutes, the road was re-opened and cars allowed through. I still had about 30km to go to get to Lourdes so I headed off along the same road as the peloton.

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Basque and French along the route of the Tour de France. These flags were already being taken down when I went past about an hour after the peloton.

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House being built near Lourdes. It is over 800 km from Paris to Lourdes, and in all that distance I only came across 3 houses being built. Here, is one between Ade and Lourdes. What is unusual is the vertical lathes in the roof. I guess the roofers use vertical lathes to hold the felt and then nail horizontal lathes on top to support the terracotta tiles. The walls are built with huge clay blocks, similar to the concrete breeze blocks we have at home.

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Sign for Lourdes. After about 9 hours on the road, I eventually make it to Lourdes and head straight to my hotel in time to see the finish of the day’s stage to La Pierre St Martin. Believe me, it is so much easier to watch the Tour on TV than try and see it live. I have been in France over a week and it was the first I had seen of the Tour since watching the Utrecht prologue in the cafe Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. And what a stage to watch. Shock and awe from Froome just like on Ax 3 Domaines in 2013. French TV however concentrated on the disappointing performance of the French riders.

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Result of today’s stage.  As if I hadn’t a dramatic enough day, there was a huge Bastille day firework display above the Chateau Fort in Lourdes, which started at 10.30 went on for about half an hour. Certainly, a day i will never forget. The first time in 23 years seeing the Tour de France live and fireworks a plenty.

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