Tour De France 2009
Tonnerre - Vittel
It was kind of fitting that Tonnerre was hosting a start of the Tour De France for the first time on 16th July. It was also the first ever Tour de France stage for WomensCycling.net !!
The idea of working at a stage of the Tour de France was planted at another of the organiser's (ASO) events, Fleche Wallone Femmes (Click here for coverage of Fleche) in April.
After some email communications with Christophe Marchardier, the man whose role includes media communication, accreditation and organising finish line photographers for ASO, his invitation to experience the greatest cycling event in the World became a reality.
The Tour de France is huge. There are hundreds of thousands of spectators on a daily basis (more than a million for a mountain stage) and there are thousands of people and vehicles who work on the race each day. Strangely, though, when you're inside "the bubble", within the barriers and security, carrying on with work tasks, the enormity of the event subsides and it becomes, reassuringly 'just another bike race'.
"Just another bike race" is complete testimony to what ASO achieves on a daily basis, the greatest of complements. Such is the level of organisation that they bring to their event, working conditions are predictable and prescribed to such an extent that (despite the scale), everyone knows what their role is and is able to operate within the normal parameters of their role, as they would expect.
After finding the VIP reception stand in the town of Tonnerre to collect the all-important accreditation tags which give access to the restricted areas of the Tour De France, we were greeted in the warmest of fashions in the Village Depart by Christophe. He aslo gave a short briefing on what to expect and the "do's & don'ts" specific to the race. In fact, the "don'ts" were not so much prohibitions as a reminder of the scale of the event and as a result, the need to make decisions about positions during the stage and at the finish much earlier than in other races and to remember that there are many more people all trying to do the same thing, so moving around would take much longer.
After that, it was down to business, chronicalling the day's racing and podium protocol and then going to the 400 seat media centre to begin processing and sending pictures out to some clients who were waiting to see images of our day with the men's peloton. Apart from the scale of the event, the day is much longer anyway. The men race for around 200km per stage. Women typically race up to 130km, so there were another couple of hours of photo opportunities as a result.
Finally, again, such is the scale of the event, the nearest hotel with a vacancy was a good hour away by car. So, after waking with anticipation of the day at 6:30am, it was a weary WomensCycling.net team which finally arrived to check-in at 9:00pm after a long, but interesting day. "Just another bike race"?!
Stage analysis to follow
Photos Click on any image to enlarge >>
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