St. Rêmy Sees Tour de France, Without Me

by Ric Erickson

Number 1.22 - Metropole Paris, Monday, 22. July 1996:- When I got out the map and found where yesterday's barbeque was to be, and I looked at the Tour de France section in Saturday's Le Parisien, I could clearly see that the last leg of the Tour de France was going to pass within 1,200 metres.

The barbeque was to be at Le Molières, or more exactly, at Boullay-les-Troux - just past the water tower - and the Tour was to pass on the Nationale near Choisel. This looked like an easy hike.

The trouble was, I couldn't figure out when the Tour was to pass. When I phoned down, they thought it would be about 17:00 - but as close as I could calculate - it would be all over on the Champs-Elysées by then. So I worked until late - that is, early - to clear as much of the week's business and I went to bed looking forward to Sunday's adventure - this lucky chance.

In the morning I recalculated the time, fixed up the extra cameras and even got out a step-ladder, in case of great crowds.

We got in the car only fifteen minutes late - me driving them harder than on a school morning - and I did not make my usual navigation errors around St. Cyr and we got to Buc alright, and had the beautiful drive to St. Rémy in the Chevreuse. Between Châteaufort and St. Rémy other Tour watchers were setting up lunch tables and tents in the absolutely super weather with the absolutely super blue sky. After the D36 the crowds were getting really thick and their places in the forest down the winding road to St. Rêmy looked good, although they would not be able to see far.

With only one miss-turn in Le Molières we found our destination, but it had taken longer than I thought - it was 12:50 - and I had figured the publicity cars would pass by Choisel by then; so it was too late.

Still there was the day itself, and the barbeque and the pool with its 26 degree water, which is practically boiling for the Ile-de-France, and it was a nice place with lots of garden and trees, and not too many charters heading in for a landing at Orly.

First swim of the year and the boys fought each other bravely to decide who would get to fight me, and I threw the big one in a couple of times, but it is getting harder the heavier he gets. The other one has decided to learn to swim by jumping in, and all of this pool is over his head so you have to watch him a bit.

About mid-afternoon the madame let out a whoop and said they were passing St. Rêmy and I grabbed the camera and ran into the kitchen, but the contrast on the TV was lousy, and she turned on the big one they have and closed a shuttered door and I shot it standing up and freehand.

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So here you see them, from the France2/3 TV coverage, riding into St. Rêmy, the crowd, going round the loop there, and an overhead shot just as they are to disappear into the trees going up the hill, towards Châteaufort and the rest of the run into Paris.

The shoot took about four minutes and I went back outside and it was still good weather and finished my salad and cheese. The day's work was over and I could enjoy the rest of it - until early this morning, writing this up.

There may have been shorter 'coverages' of the 21 day-long Tour de France, but I have not heard of them. All the same, I will not attempt to get this feat into any record books. I have a bike and have even been on it once this year, but I am not a great fan of the races - although I do admire the riders, because of the inhuman effort they put into it. I am truly disappointed I did not get out there to see them on the road with this accidental chance.

The fantastic part of the Tour de France is partly the crowds that turn out to see it as it passes - usually in only a few minutes - and they come great distances to do so; and also usually hours in advance. I have seen those cartoons of the British, who when they go on a picnic sit in their cars in a parking-lot by the seaside in the rain and eat their cucumber sandwiches.

Yesterday it was not raining and the French were not sitting in their cars, not in parking-lots, but by the sides of the roads - where they can reach out and touch the riders as they go by, and sometimes hand them drinks.

Of all the things there are to do in this country on a really fine Sunday in July, I guess the best possible thing to do once a year is see the Tour de France, in person. Despite good intentions, I blew it; and ended up doing the second best thing - sitting around having lunch half the day.

The URL :

Tour de France - All you want to know about Tour '96

Click on the images below to see a larger .jpg.

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