'Aussie' Spotting at the Tour de France
Womens Cycling.net paid a visit to the Tour de France on Monday and chatted to some Aussies who are following the whole race in their campervan
On the way back through Europe after the women's Giro in Italy, a short diversion found WCN on the slopes of the climb to Courcheval where Stage 10 from Grenoble would finish on Tuesday evening.
The Tour de France is a race where (easily) 500,000 people each day line the stage route to watch the peleton go past. There are some devoted followers who take a week or a fortnight of annual leave to follow the Tour from abroad France. Then, there are those who spend three weeks in July following the complete race, from Prologue to Paris.......
There is not a defined Tour spectator - devoted cyclists, of course will line up at the side of the road, but so too will families. People you would never see at any other type of sports event (soccer, athletics, rugby... ) will take the time to plan a trip to the Tour. There is simply no stereotypical fan.
Driving up the slopes of the mountain, an orange campervan with British licence plates, but festooned with Australian flags, was easy to spot amongst the mainly white collection of campervans in the same area.
Chatting to the occupants on the morning of Stage 10, as they waited the arrival of the race, it became clear that these were Tour devotees.......
The three, Simon and his girlfriend from Sydney and his sister from Melbourne are based in London at the moment (hence the British-registered vehicle). They had been at Courcheval since Sunday, to get the van to the Alps and then give it a bit of a rest before the next mountain stages. This was their third Tour and they had been following the race since the beginning. They were, they said, planning to see it through to Paris.
The van was decorated with a green and yellow boxing kangaroo flag on the windscreen and mini Australian-flag bunting around the sides. At the rear of the camper was a huge flag, attached to the back at one side and staked into the ground at the other. Behind this windbreak-type affair, the three had a small area with some foldable chairs to sit on when the weather permitted.
Meg was rearranging the windscreen flag as we chatted, explaining that sometimes if the next camper or car parks close by, the flag cannot be seen and so she was raising it so that it was visible from the road, their new neighbours having arrived overnight.
The three were there because they loved the experience of the Tour - the sociability of the other fans around them, the fact that following the race allows them to see different areas of France and the beautiful scenery of the Alps in this case and of course, the enjoyment of watching bicycle racing.
Commenting on the Courcheval experience, Meg rated it. She said that Courcheval tourism vehicles had been driving up and down past them on the mountain for a couple of days, giving out information to visitors about events held to honour the Tour (like a party in the ski-station village of Courcheval 1300m on the evening prior) and that the cars had also been giving out freebies like sweets / candies / lollies to those waiting at the side of the road.
Asked if the Aussie riders ever acknowledged them, she said that it was more likely when they were parked-up on a mountain stage than a fast, flat one, but that the riders did look over when they spotted the campervan and that the occupants received the occasional nod from the antipodean members of the bunch.
Certainly on this day, as the autobus of riders just inside the time limit passed by, Robbie McEwen (sprint-ace and Aussie RR Champ) was at the helm and gave a long look to his left as he passed the three at the side of their decorated van. He received the cheers of some compatriots and perhaps felt a little closer to home in this, the greatest bike race on Earth which takes place half way around the world from Australia.
Photo : Meg at the side of the Aussie campervan, dressed in an Australian rugby shirt
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