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Published: July 17th 2008
Tour de France.....
....mobile stage at Lavelanet. This may be the largest pantechnicon ever
It’s 5.30 p.m. as I sit down to write this and the Tour de France cyclists must just be arriving in Narbonne, some 4 hours and 165 km. after we saw them vanish through Laroque. I don’t know what they’re feeling like, but we’re pretty shattered after just under 24 hours of partying and celebrating the Tour here.
But to begin at the beginning - last Sunday in our case, when we found our baker had just finished decorating the shop to celebrate both 14th July and the Tour. Our local paper, La Dépêche du Midi, became increasingly breathless with anticipation, giving over its main headlines to the event.
Sunday: ‘C’est notre Tour!’
Monday: ‘Quel talent ce Ricco!’ (Riccardo Ricco, Italian cyclist, apparently)
Tuesday: ‘Au Tour de l’Ariège’
Wednesday: ‘Le Tour arrive a Foix’
Thursday: ‘Drame a l’arrivée’ (minor road accident involving the motor cavalcade).
As we have no TV, it was hard to get very overexcited ourselves, as we weren’t able to follow the thrills and spills, the slogs up col after col, or the shots of the frenzied crowds lining the route. Still, we WERE looking forward to spending the evening of the 16th in Lavelanet. The
Our Baker's shop window
They celebrated Bastille Day and the Tour de France at the same time
town was planning all kinds of fun to celebrate the departure of the Tour from there shortly after 1.00 p.m.today.
What a party! We had to park on the very outskirts of town, as already the centre was closed for traffic. We walked past teams and teams of workers, all in hi-viz gilets, unloading crash barriers from huge transporters and using them to line the streets. We noticed the brightly coloured signage directing riders, visitors, technical staff, the disabled, team support, VIPs and Press to various parts of the Tour ‘village’. We passed regiments of portaloos and container-sized refuse bins, and began to realise what a logistical challenge the whole operation is.
Still it was fun we were after, and that’s what we got, as soon as we arrived at the Esplanade. Every bar had somehow got hold of dozens of extra chairs and tables which spilled out into the street, and had large crowds of happy customers. A huge marquee had appeared, and was the scene of mass catering on a grand scale. There were jugglers, poi dancers, bands…. We were very happy to stroll around, people watching.
But you do need to sit down and
Miles of crash barriers.....
....in Lavelanet await the crowds and bike riders
enjoy a drink after a while. We wandered off to one of the smaller, quieter areas, behind the market, because we’d found out that one of the evening ‘happenings’ was being prepared there. We were ahead of the game, and found a bar that still had room to squeeze us in, from which we got tantalising glimpses of what ‘Pipitotal’ were up to. How to describe their creations? They’d made bizarre, outlandish and wonderful forms of transport from all kinds of metal ‘junk’. All owed something, but not a lot, to the bicycle, and to some other form of transport too. In one case an aeroplane, in another a sailing ship, in another a bubble car (if you’re old enough to remember them…). Look at the pictures. At about 10 o’clock, outlandishly dressed in costumes variously assembled from World War 2 pilot’s gear to the wardrobe of Lord of the Rings, a crew of riders appeared and ascended their various forms of transport. They ‘nodded off’ as the narrator introduced his fantasy to the audience, but were forced into action as a pathway of flares was lit and fireworks launched. We motley band of hangers-on followed, entertained by the extraordinary
progress of these fantastic machines.
Still, it was getting late, so after a quick tour of the fire-eaters on the main town roundabout, we headed off home. Not so most other people. The disco was due to begin at 1.00 a.m…..
I couldn’t sleep, so popped back at 5.30 a.m. to see the town already alive with road sweepers, cleaners, crash-barrier assemblers, road menders, bar owners, balloon inflators, dustbin sack distributors, portaloo cleaners, radio and TV reporters.
But after that, nothing to do here in Laroque, as far as the Tour went, until about 11.30, when the advance party travelled through the streets of town. This meant that a cavalcade of publicity vehicles surged through the town distributing freebies to those of us lining the streets. I didn’t put myself out to get stuff, but still acquired: a Skoda sunhat (Skoda is one of the sponsors, and you’ve never seen so many Skodas in one area as we did yesterday and today. It must have been half their annual production); a pack of cards; a fridge magnet; a key ring; a biro; a magazine; some sweets; some washing powder and a Day-Glo safety armband. See the photos
to view some of the vehicles that passed by. Some cars and vans, certainly, but far more vehicles were disguised as coffee-cups, beer bottles, bears…even a bed. And this went on for nearly an hour. Indoors for a quick lunch, then out again to see The Tour Riders. After an advance guard of support vehicles, they were upon us so suddenly, I hardly saw the peloton, and all hundred and sixty something of them were past in well under 10 seconds. I couldn’t grasp that it had happened. All that build up, then - whoosh; and it was over. So we all shuffled off for a drink and a sit down and a vague feeling of anticlimax.
Within minutes, traffic was back on the streets (no post today - sorting office and our street both closed to all traffic), signs were all down, and life was back to normal. A quick trip to Lavelanet told the same story. All that effort, and suddenly - all gone
Tot: 0.203s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 8; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0114s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb