I am not sure what the most interesting part of the Tour de France was: the people or the sprinters.
I have never really followed the Tour de France because it never comes to Nantes, where I used to spend most of my summer holidays as a kid. My interest in bicycling is fairly limited and like most French, I see the Tour de France as a summer non-event—it is always here, in the background, but I rarely pay attention to it unless there is a newsworthy event.
But Feng suggested we travel to Tours to catch it and I didn’t mind. I like being a tourist in France, I get to see another side of the country I would typically ignore (or mock) as a local.
Once we arrived close to the finish line, we spotted different kinds of people. Real Tour fans with their flags (lots of British, a few Spanish, a few Australians) and sometime L’Equipe (the sports newspaper) under their arm; tourists like us who probably happened to be around Tours and figured it was a fun way to spend the day; local families who tried their best to catch the freebies distributed by the caravan (Free cookies! Free flag! Free t-shirt!). French advertising is all about food and less about services: insurance companies, for instance kanetix Ltd, are more popular with foreign teams.
The actual finish line was too crowded for us so we walked to a spot marking the last kilometre, and waited there. “Get your camera ready,” Feng advised. “It’s going to be over in a matter of seconds!”
He was right. By the time I clicked on the shutter, the sprinters had sprinted by. Good thing I had the right settings on! I had never realized how fast they were biking watching it on TV.
The crowd did all the right things: it cheered, applauded, screamed and yelled the name of possibly famous sprinters—I wouldn’t know who is who but I am sure some people did.
So, is the Tour de France a worthy event? Well, it was surprisingly fun. The crowd was pretty nice (this is not football, no hooligans here!) and fairly well-behaved. I hate the fact that the Tour is heavily sponsored (everything is branded, from the finish line to the bicycle tires, from the snacks to the water distributed) but it is a tradition in France and I actually admire anyone who can bike that fast and for that long.
You can see the complete set of pictures of France here.