The boys will be pushing big gears today, with many running 11-54 or 55
Crepes at the start line!
It was a long one today – we started at 8:30AM leaving the hotel for Avranches, and didn’t return until a little after 8PM. I wanted to make sure I was at the start area early, to try to get into a team car, preferably with a Canadian so I could speak to the rider in English afterwards. I asked both Europcar and Orica Green-Edge, and Europcar agreed to have me in the team car behind fellow Canadian David Veilleux.
As David was starting to warm up, I had a chance to speak with him for a few minutes, and asked him about his preparation for the stage, and if there was anything to look out for. “I will discover it as I go, I usually ride it before and memorize it [but not today]”. David told me that he’ll work hard to make sure he’s within the time cutoff, but he is treating it more as a transition stage as he is not a GC contender.
David warming up
I also asked the Quebecer if he will lift up his head from his aero position to take in the scenery around Mont-Saint-Michel. He response: “I’ve seen it before, but I’ll try to take a look, I always take a look, I like to see. We are so fortunate to see all these regions”. I asked him about his experience at the tour so far, and he said “so far I’m just pretty happy to see the amount of Canadian flags and Canadians that are here, and also Quebecers. I see a lot of Quebec flags, so I’m happy about it, I didn’t expect that at all. On every stage I’ve seen it, it’s nice to see people come out and cheer for me.”
I let David warm up without distraction, and wandered around the start area. I spoke with yesterday’s stage winner Marcel Kittel, and asked him how he slept last night. He replied “could have been better, a lot of excitement in my head and everything”, before getting back to concentrating on his warmup.
Marcel Kittel prior to his race against the clock
I almost missed the Europcar team van on the way to the start line, but they stopped for me, and I jumped in at the last possible second. I wasn’t in an ideal position in the van, as I was in the backseat, sandwiched between two special guests who are partners of the team with Ibis Hotels. It was a pretty wild ride following in the first car behind Veilleux! The van kept the same speed as the pro cyclist, even around the corners, even though a bicycle is a lot more agile than that big van in those tight turns. The tires were screeching on most corners, and the three of us in the backseat were constantly being thrown into each other. It was a very fast course, and I saw the van’s speedometer hit 90+ km/h at several points in the course.
Out of the gate!
My view for most of the ride.
El Diablo cheers on David during his race.
Finally, my first view of Mont-Saint-Michel!
After David finished his ride, we picked him up to take him to another bus waiting a few KM away. During the ride, he seemed very calm and collected, not what I expected from a rider going so hard (maybe not hard for him, but excruciating for the average hardcore cyclist). During the ride, he asked me how I enjoyed the experience, and we chatted about the ride.
At one point during the ride he took his hands off the aero bars and gave a little wave to someone in the crowd. He told me at that point, he was waving to people holding Quebec flags, and that his parents were on the side of the course waving a large Quebec flag at 500M from the finish line as well (they are following the entire Tour).
“It was a good course, I like courses that aren’t fully flat.” I also asked him about his speeds during the race, and he replied “It was pretty fast, eh. I didn’t look when I was going full speed, [but] the few times I looked down, it was like 75-80, and 50-55 on the flat sections, a really fast course with the tailwind.”
Now that the race day is over for him, he will spin for a while, then rest, maybe have a nap, a massage and hang out in the hotel room and relax. The riders don’t get to see much of the cities they race in; it’s all business, and there is no wasting unnecessary energy being a tourist. David told me that the team didn’t get in to their hotel until 9:30pm last night after the stage and drive, and only had dinner after checking in.
After his race, David Veilleux took time out to sign autographs for some young fans.
I didn’t realize that the Europcar van wasn’t returning me to the start area, as they were taking a full van load of their athletes, so I was left on the side of the road. I had about a 4KM walk back to the finish line, where I spent another few KM trying to find the best photo position to include the magnificent Mont-Saint-Michel in the background. It took a lot of walking, and a lot of negotiating with Police/Security until I found the prime spot.
Once I found this great spot 500M from the finish line, I photographed about a dozen riders coming around the corner with Mont-Saint-Michel in the background. It is a lovely shot, but all of the images from this area looked pretty similar. I decided to actually check out the interior of Mont-Saint-Michel, since I was so close to it, and perhaps only here once in my lifetime. I took about an hour to wander around the old city, and discover its old streets, cemetery, and grab a popsicle to cool down. It was a real shame that there was a workers strike going on, and the main attraction, The Abbey, has been closed for a month, and won’t be open until further notice.
The area itself is beautiful, with the fortified town actually a little over one kilometre off of the coast. It can be completely separated by water from the mainland during high tide. During my day in the team car, I saw a few sheep grazing in fields, but learned that these sheep are something special. Due to the extreme variation of the tides, and occasional flooding, salt marsh meadows have been created where the sheep graze. Since the sheep’s diet includes more salt than your regular sheep, their meet has a distinctive taste, which results in a local speciality, translated as “salt meadow lamb”. I didn’t have a chance to have any of this lamb, but did have a crepe, and I discovered that the crepe originated in the region as well.
A very scenic last kilometre of the race.
This is how we photogs achieve shots like these.
The view from atop Mont-Saint-Michel at low tide, this boat isn’t going anywhere in a while…
A nice place to watch a bike race.
Following my quick tour of Mont-Saint-Michel, I hung out about 50M past the finish line where riders stop to grab water, and briefly speak to the media. I saw Belkin’s Laurens Ten Dam look like death as he rolled over the line, and nearly collapsed off of the bike, drool hanging off his chin. Tony Martin was the virtual leader fairly early on, and had a while to sit in the hot seat, watching a live feed of his competitors. By now you’ll know he won the stage with 12 seconds on Froome.
Tony Martin awaits his fate.
Belkin’s Laurens Ten Dam look like death as he rolled over the line, and nearly collapsed off of the bike.
While fans enjoy the race experience, the behind the scenes are not exactly glamourous. A technician sleeps underneath a broadcasting truck.
I was hoping to photograph a podium during my Tour experience, but no amount of negotiation could get me anywhere close. I waited behind the podium to try to speak with the LCL yellow jersey podium hostesses, Laurence Galon, and Elfie Arnaud. This is the first year on the Tour De France podium for both of the ladies. Laurence got this job through an interview process after putting in an application, and Elfie got the job through knowing the right people. Laurence is a full time professional hostess, and works at many events throughout the year. Elfie is both a university student studying physiotherapy, and is also on the French national pentathlon team. I asked both ladies if they followed professional cycling, and from what I understand Laurence follows it a little as she is friends with cyclists, but this is the first year Elfie has followed the race. Both ladies stay in shape through sports, both of them through running, and swimming.
(Left to right) Elfie Arnaud & Laurence Galon are this year’s LCL yellow jersey podium hostesses.
It is difficult to just pick one of the hostesses for my portrait of the day, but this image of Laurence Galon is today’s.
Thanks for reading and tune in tomorrow as the race heads east to Tours, and look for more on the PEZ Facebook page and the PEZ Twitter page.