… of the Tour de France, from the home of a great cheese, Livarot in Lower Normandy, to Fougères in Brittany, duly arrived in our village of Lignières-Orgères on the 10th of July, as I mentioned it would in my last post. And everyone was en fȇte -in holiday mode. Madame at the boulangerie had prepared a good supply of crudités and the cafe/bar had provided tables and chairs on the pavement under an awning. Monsieur Le Patron was busy all the while ferrying drinks out to thirsty customers on what was a bright blue 30ºC+ day. It must have been his busiest time for years. The local pompiers (firemen) seemed to enjoy their beers. Fortunately for them I guess, they didn’t get called out.
Our friends Mike & Mathilde came down from Paris for the show and on the ‘first-in-best-dressed’ basis we took up our positions at around 1130, nearly 2 hours before the arrival of le caravane, the cavalcade of sponsors’ and advertisers’ vehicles, and 3 1/2hrs prior to the expected entry of the gladiators themselves. Supplies of paté, cheese, ham and bread had been laid in, as well some Prosecco – well, we’re all European now and it’s cheaper than champagne. And so we waited.
There wasn’t an overabundance of banners to welcome Le Tour but the two young girls next to us created a great atmosphere all on their own, dressed as they were in red, white and blue wigs and waving tricolours. They became particularly animated, as everyone did, when le caravane rolled through. All manner of freebies were thrown to the waiting crowds. Fortunately there was nothing that could cause much damage. Included in the cavalcade of vehicles were mobile shops selling various items of Tour merchandise. They performed several laps of the track to rake in every last euro they could. A couple of helicopters overhead got people excited but they proved to be just carrying tv crews who were filming footage of the route to edit into coverage of the race itself. A friend in Sydney spotted the War Memorial in Lignieres from aerial shots of our village, but not us, even though we were only about 3 metres away from it.
And then, real excitement, the arrival of a breakaway group of 5 cyclists, les échappés, including an Eritrean rider who was not only the first African rider ever in Le Tour but certainly the first to wear the polka dot jersey which denotes the current King of the Mountains, the best hill climber. Whoosh, gone! It was almost as quick as that. They had to slow down for the s-bend past the café/bar, but for the most part, on flat stages such as this one, riders average over 50kmph. A few minutes after that, more woosh,gone! This time it was le peloton, the rest of the chasing pack, so it was an elongated w-o-o-o-sh. I would like to say I spotted some great names such as Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Mark Cavendish but it was all too quick and, besides I was concentrating on taking photos.
And that was that. Almost immediately after the last cyclist had passed, someone in a support vehicle announced that it was all over. Other people started clearing barriers from road junctions and everyone, including us, packed up and went home. Fortunately, on the way, we dropped in to see friends and discovered that Le Tour is being broadcast live on free-to-air TV, instead of just on Sky, as I had thought, so we were able to watch the “Manx Missile”, Mark Cavendish win a thrilling sprint finish. After several disappointing stages for him, that really put the icing on the cake for us.
Here are some images of the day