Shock and awe plus fireworks a plenty on Bastille Day in the Tour de France

(#05 – Top 10 Highlights from 2015 Tour de Travoy) The photo above shows fireworks above the Chateau Fort in Lourdes in France on Bastille Day in 2015.  A few hours earlier in the nearby town of Tarbes, I had watched as the Tour de France peloton whooshed past me at the start of Stage 10 of the 2015 Tour de France. I had cycled all week about 600 km from Paris and only made it to Tarbes in time to see the Tour go past with less than an hour to spare. Chris Froome was in the middle of the peloton that I witnessed in Tarbes but by the time the stage had finished, he was about a minute ahead of everyone else after a devastating acceleration half way up the climb to La Pierre Saint Martin. Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf famously came up with the phrase “shock and awe” during the Iraq war of 1991 but on the slopes of La Pierre Saint Martin, Chris Froome unleashed his own version of shock and awe. This was my first post and the first day I ever wrote about on the Tour de Travoy and it was a day I will never forget. I had achieved my goal of cycling from Paris to Lourdes in a week in time to see the Tour de France and was rewarded with fireworks a plenty.

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Crowd waiting for the Tour de France at Borderes-sur-l’Echez. After cycling from Paris all week, I only made it to the outskirts of Tarbes a few minutes before the Tour de France peloton was due to set off on it’s first day in the Pyrenees. 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 cavalcade but was just relieved to make it this far in time to see the Tour.  If I had not got up this morning before 5 and set off from Auch around 6, I would have missed out on seeing the Tour de France today.  While I was too late to see the publicity cavalcade, which normally sets off an hour and a half before the riders, I 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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The 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 and at least a minute 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. All week I had cycled like mad, so as to make it to Tarbes to see the Tour on the first stage in the Pyrenees. But in the space of a few seconds, the cyclists had shot past and went off into the distance. But that didn’t matter as I had achieved my goal of cycling from Paris to the Pyrenees in time to see the Tour.

Video of the peloton going past. After the last vehicle in the convoy behind the peloton 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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Sign for Lourdes. After about 9 hours on the road, I eventually made it to Lourdes and headed 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. Although Quintana tried, no other rider could stay with his devastating acceleration half way up the climb to La Pierre Saint Martin. 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 in Lourdes and also on the Tour de France.

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