What an exciting travel to the Tour de France Grand Départ La Manche at the Normandie.
We have been there for several days, looking for the big event of the Tour de France Grand Départ taking place for three stages in the beautiful landscape of La Manche, a part of the Normandie.
We were happy to meet some good friends for riding our bikes together on some special roads, watching each day the Tour de France live and the finish with friends and in a bar at the beachside.
So let us start from the beginning. A roadtrip to the Normandie means 8 hours to travel by car, driving alongside such places like Liége, Valenciennes where Paris-Roubaix takes place and over the ponts from Le Havre.
Our place where we stayed for the last couble of years is in the heart of the western coastline near Coutances, one of the major cities and a drive trough of the Tour de France on day 2. In the middle of green not to go golfing but for horses and cows and of course for riding your bike on roads less travelled. So we stopped at Saint-Lô where the Etape takes off on day 2 to get our food for the next days, only to have a need for the nearby baker to get daily croissants and baguettes.
First thing we did, when we arrived friday eve, was to get the bikes unpacked and ride down to the beach. Crossing the first time a lane of the course of the TdF was very exciting. Allover the place where bikes hanging in the trees, roadlamps or roadsigns. The symboliced bikers in the leader jerseys showing up in every roundpoint (streetcircel as you find here in France every K to organize the traffic).
It was still the EURO2016, but here it was the Grand Départ taking place and soccer was only the second sportive event these days!
So we went to the bar, where we have been last year for the last wine and beer or Cidré. A beer with the view on the oceanside and the sun not going down for the next hour – in july the days are long here in the west. We hadded home not without making an appointment for the next day to come here for the finish of the first Etapé starting at the Mount St. Michel and ending at Utah beach.
Morning light woke us up early and the ride to the bakery was like the evening before with everywhere signs of the Grand Départ. The road devices were allready placed and we made a loop from the bakery to the place, were we wanted to go, to see the howl spectacular event of the TdF today. A typically short summershower let us wait outside the bakery under the summerroof and the first croissant were gone.
So next we headed to the place where we will await the Peloton to get an idea what we have to expect later when the karawane goes by followed 1+ hour later by the riders. At 10 o´clock it was already crowded with people preparing their tables, chairs and summerumbrellas, wine and food unpacked.
Everyone seems to be busy to be ready, when all starts to happen for the first time this year, in front of their eyes. We crossed the course, rode up the hill and into the next valley to take our breakfast in the garden at our side.
Studying the timeshedule, we planed to leave for the course half an hour earlier then the Karawane to get a good spot and to be prepared for the riders. With a good view along the valley of the Sienne river, we could early see the Karawane rolling on the course to come nearer. Trucks with huge build ups on the platform or even the whole car was covered by the merchandising of the brands. Tour vans driving by and selling some shirts, bidons and caps of the motives of the leaderjerseys. Merchandising was thrown to the crowd and the people grapping for it.
We headed back to our side to get the bigger camera ready for the Peloton. An hour + later we were ready to await the first riders and waited, waited – people were meeting, eating, drinking, playing ball nearby and being very relaxed in the sun. The valley was changing it´s situation with the flood starts coming in. Some aeroplanes crossing the valley – looks like it is the tricolore group from earlier at the start at Mount-St. Michel heading to there aeroport in Cherbourg, getting fueled and then leave again for the ceremonie at Utah beach later the evening.
Next thing up in the sky were about 4 or five helicopters circeling the valley. The motos of the police came their way, teamcars drove by and it was getting realy busy.
The helis came nearer and there were the first riders coming up the valley, the red car from Prudhomme ahead of it all. One rider of Bora-Argon18 was in the leading group – you can see the new sponsor of the Grand Départ Düsseldorf 2017 with the german and french flag beside. The next days they will be in the leading groups to show up and warrant the wildcard they have been offered from the TdF.
And the long they came the fast they were gone up the street taking their way at the coastline and then riding up east through some wooded area to go up to Utah beach were the liberation of France and Europe starts against the german nationalists.
All waiting for the huge Peloton of nearly 200 riders. Amazing to see the whole street full of the team riders leading their captains safe up the street. It was a good place to see them lined up and rolling up the course in this massive group of a colorful Peloton.
The people were standing and looking up the street were the Peloton has disappeared talking about the riders they have seen and how exciting it is to have the Grand Départ in this area of France – the Normandie, La Manche.
Unfortunatly it was a bad day#1 for Alberto Contador, not fare away after leaving Créances on a wide street to go right to Lessay. Going fast over an obstacle, he crashed hard and had to be ambulanced by Florence out of the medical car. It was there were his misfurtune starts and soon he will abonden the Tour de France, leaving Team Tinkoff without a leader but not without a win or a jersey. But enough said for day#1 and as an outlook for day#2 and more to come.