Whizzing around the Tour de France with Ibis
I know it’s deeply uncool to say this on a cycling blog but I never used to be that into the Tour de France. Back before my roadie conversion, my mum and I used to snigger a little at the skinny riders grinding their way towards Surprise View in Hathersage, and for a really long time I honest to god didn’t know why they dressed like they did.
But lycra inched it’s way into my life little by little, and with it came a new interest in the three week endurance fest that is the Tour de France, the heroic riders creeping their way into my consciousness to the stage I’m at now, where I follow several of them on Twitter and have a King of the Mountains style polka dot tablecloth.
I still find watching each stage in it’s entirety an endurance fest of its own, preferring to settle down in front on ITV’s highlights at the end of each day, but I’m a full on TDF convert – just one with a short attention span. For three weeks of the year, I actually read the Sport section of the newspaper rather than using it to line the cat litter tray. And each year a few more of my friends would travel over to watch the Tour, and I’d get a little more jealous. Until now!
This weekend I was able to experience the thrill of the Tour, not just anywhere but in Paris, thanks to Ibis who’d invited me over to celebrate their partnership with the race. It couldn’t have started off more perfectly – I was already super excited just to be in Paris and then I opened the window of my hotel room to a view of the Eiffel Tower. We had a lovely dinner just round the corner from Ibis Paris Boulogne Billancourt then I tried very hard to catch up on sleep. As per usual, I was too excited.
The day of the Tour, we headed up to meet the caravan publicitaire on the outskirts of Paris. The caravan publicitaire can seem pretty odd to the uninitiated, but it’s a real Tour de France tradition and the fans lining the streets seem to love it. To create a carnival atmosphere (and gain as much attention as possible) the sponsors create brightly coloured and crazy looking floats, which they drive through the streets whilst chucking out gifts and blaring music. The Ibis floats and cars were very modest compared to the chicken trucks and giant madeleine cakemobile.
I was in a car, and after an incredibly brief stop at the Village du Depart where I managed to hastily snap five photos, most of which are crap, we whizzed through the streets of Paris with our driver clearly enjoying himself as he blasted along normally packed boulevards whilst tinkling his horn. I wound down the window to take some snaps and was immediately lifted by the jolly atmosphere – despite the most torrential rain I’d seen in a long while, the crowds were waving, smiling and depending on their nationality, doing a lot of drinking too.
A quick look at my watch revealed the riders had set off on their ride, and that’s when I realised I wasn’t actually going to see much of the race and started WhatsApping Dave for updates – he was watching live on TV in the UK and reporting live to me, in Paris. Once in hospitality at Place du Concord I ate a raspberry macaroon the size of my face whilst watching Chris Froome drink champagne on TV then grabbed a red wine and dragged the highest chair I could find over to the barriers, eager to see the riders coming through on their first laps of the Champs Elysees.
As the weather was so terrible, the clock for the overall race had been stopped 41km into the stage so Froome simply had to make it over the line without slipping on the cobblestones of the Champs Elysee. For him, it was a victory parade and we unleashed an enormous cheer as the man in the yellow jersey made his first sweep through the square, and thankfully, no one threw wee at him.
Battling it out at the front for the stage were Andre Greipel, Bryan Coquard and Alexander Kristoff and they blasted pass us five times in total making me glad I had such a good viewing spot and that it wasn’t just a one off fly by like when I saw the Tour of Britain go past me so quickly that I could barely tell one rider from the next.
In the end, alongside Froome taking the overall win and his second TDF title as well as doubling up and nabbing the climber’s jersey that matches my tablecloth, Greipel proved his might and won the stage. And with that, we raised our glasses of champagne and saluted the winner of the toughest race in the world. Allez Froome e merci Ibis!