Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scenes from the Tour de France

This past July, our home in Sablet was not rented for one week. I was surprised as it was the same week the Tour de France would go through part of the Vaucluse and climb up Mont Ventoux.

Having only watched the Tour on television, I really wanted to make a quick trip and see it in person. I was happily surprised when Shirley responded "why not" when I proposed this "outing" to her. Oh, what a dear.

The 2009 Tour de France started in the principality of Monaco on July 4 with a 15 km individual time trial. By the time the peloton arrived in Montélimar where stage 20 would start, the riders had ridden more than 3000 km and visited 6 countries.

Stage 20, the last competitive stage on the Tour (stage 21 is largely a ceremonial ride up the Champs Élysées in Paris), was scheduled for Saturday, July 25. The police were reporting that the road up Mont Ventoux was crowded with spectators, some estimates said as many as 500,000 people were on the mountain.

So rather than fight the crowds on Mont Ventoux, we opted to go to Bédoin, the last village the peloton would cross before they began the big climb up Mont Ventoux. Stage 20 was scheduled to cover 167 km starting in Montélimar and finish at the top.

We and our friends arrived in Bédoin about 1:00 pm. It was a beautiful, hot day and Mont Ventoux was clearly visible up behind the village.

We were not sure the route the peloton would follow to cross through Bédoin, but decided to follow the crowds as we figured they would lead us to the right place.

The road into Bédoin is lined with trees which provide shade to travelers; walkers or riders.

We found a place to watch the race along the street and bought drinks and sandwiches from the café directly behind where we were seated on the curb. The café staff were very kind and without our even asking, brought out chairs for Shirley and me.

Besides watching the riders for the brief time it takes for the peloton to pass by, I decided the best part of watching a stage in person versus on television is watching all the people. Shirley was quite the sight herself.

This US Navy pilot from Norfolk Virginia and his very pregnant wife with the US flag painted on her belly were photographed many times.

There was a crowd around the café where we were situated under the tree for shade.

The police led the Tour de France caravan through town; as I recall, they arrived about 90 minutes before the peloton was scheduled to arrive.

The parade of advertisers and sponsors seems to go on forever.

Most of the sponsor vehicles had riders or passengers throwing samples to the crowds lining the street.

There were multiple mobile "stands" selling a variety of souvenirs.

A few minutes before the first riders in the peloton arrived, police vehicles with loud speakers drove through town announcing the impending arrival of the first riders and clearing the street of spectators.

The first riders in a small break away group arrive.

A minute or so later, the leaders of the race arrive. One of the first to peddle by was Lance Armstrong.

He was followed shortly by Alberto Contador wearing the yellow jersey signifying he was the leader of the race.

Then the team cars loaded with spare bikes snaked their way through town.

After a few more minutes, the main group of riders in the peloton arrived and made their way past our location.

Finally back home to Sablet; the sun and excitement had wiped me out. Thanks Shirley for taking this lovely picture.


  1. Dear Michel,

    You have a beautiful home. I was fortunate enough to vacation in the Sablet House with The Friels and the Stantons the last week of June 2009. Thank you for your hospitality and all of your advice. We had a wonderful vacation.

    The highlight for me was the day I rented a road bicycle from a small bike shop in Bédoin and the next day made a trek up Mt. Ventoux. The reason I selected Mt. Ventoux was for the very reason you stated in your blog. It was the stage that would decide the race, once in a life time opportunity.

    I started my ride just south of Malaucene. All the roads were newly paved with freshly painted motivational messages on the road surface. The hill was very crowded that day as well, not with spectators but with other cyclists. Obviously, a very popular proving ground. I had researched the hill before our trip but all paled in comparison to the true Mt. Ventoux.

    The real reward for my efforts came several weeks later back in the States when our Travel Club reconvened at our house for stage 20 of the Tour de France and I was able to say “I did that”.

    Perhaps this would be a good suggestion for future guests.

    Thank you once again.

    Todd Stallings

  2. Hi Todd.

    Nice to hear from you. I am very happy you enjoyed your visit to Sablet.

    Thanks for sharing your experience about your trip up Mont Ventoux.

    Since the time you were there, we bought two very
    nice bicycles and they are available for guests to use.

    We hope to do what you did and make the trip up Mont Ventoux. I would like to be able to say I have done that too.

    How tough a ride was it? How long did it take you to make it to the top?

    Have a great weekend. Again, thanks for checking in.