While we moved to Paris last year just before the Tour began, I unfortunately had to go on a work trip the day the Tour finished in Paris – thus missing the famous finale. Given this year was the 100th anniversary of the Tour, I certainly couldn’t let that occur again! Thus Sunday would mark the first time I got to see the finale in Paris, and would be the 4th stage I’d seen this year. I previously saw the individual time trial stage two weeks ago, the individual time trial stage last Wednesday, and then Alpe d’Huez on Thursday.
Interestingly, there were a number of little differences we saw when comparing this stage to every other stage I’ve watched thus far. Here’s the low-down on the day.
And when I say ‘day’, I really mean ‘evening’. Unlike previous years where the Tour would finish in Paris mid-afternoon, this year it would finish at about 9:30PM. While that may seem late, in Paris, that’s both still quite light out as well as quite early. Most eateries will stay open till 12AM-2AM on a weekend. And it doesn’t get legit-dark right now until about 10:30-10:45PM. A month ago that was about 11PM.
With the riders finishing up at about 9:30PM, that meant the Caravan started coming through around 5:45PM. Usually it takes about an hour, and then there’s roughly an hour gap. As I’ve talked about in other posts, the caravan is essentially a parade of sponsor companies giving out lots of free stuff. For example, the red and white ‘King of the Mountain’ hats you see are given out during the caravan, with the floats just throwing all assortment of free things at the crowds.
First up – was the famous LCL rider float and the lion float not far behind. And yup, these would be the same guys we got stuck behind on Friday on small roads in the Alps for 50 miles…
Being veterans to the caravan (aka, parade), we were ready to clean up on giveaways one final time in Paris. So once the lion went by, it was time to get down to business.
First up was Corsica Air. They certainly didn’t have great giveaways during the rest of the Tour, so it didn’t really strike us as odd that they weren’t throwing out much. We figured they just ran out or something.
Then the Haribo trucks went by…and nothing was thrown.
You know what that means? No.gummy.bears.
Seriously, I walked 2+ miles away and not a SINGLE gummy bear. Someone needs a talkin’ to.
In fact, the situation would continue. Nobody was giving out anything – just dancing. Albeit, very excited and quite energetic dancing – but simply dancing nonetheless.
On the bright side for one float, this would fit right in. The folks with the ‘float’ for Yorkshire (that’s in the UK) will actually host the first two stages of the Tour next year. To date, they didn’t give out anything – just danced and waved.
Let’s be clear Yorkshire: You’re on notice. You need to step it up by next year. A caravan float without giving away anything is like Halloween without candy. Simply wrong.
With the caravan a bit of a let-down from a giveaway standpoint, we started walking down the street trying to figure out how to get into the gardens near the Louvre, which is where we wanted to be for the race itself.
Along the way I found TdF kitchen aprons. Unfortunately, I was veto’d.
As you walk amongst the crowds, you’ll find the vast majority of hats are really just from giveaways, so when you see one that’s different, it tends to catch your eye.
We continued down, now alongside the back of the Louvre. Still watching the caravan as it went by.
We finally made it into the Louvre area, but most definitely on the wrong side of the road. Being on the wrong side meant shooting photos into the sun, and not having access to see the course from multiple angles.
Turned out, in order to get onto the right side, we had to utilize the concourse below the Louvre in the pyramid.
Oddly, despite living here a year now – I hadn’t gone into the Louvre yet. I’d been in there about 10 years ago, but it’s one of the few landmarks I haven’t re-visited (numerous) times since arriving.
Once we popped out the other side we were in business – now on the correct side of the road! We caught the last of the parade and then the onslaught of team cars began.
And team buses.
In fact, these buses would be all jammed up and stuck here for the better part of 20 minutes.
You’ll notice the yellow trimmings on the Team Sky bus, added overnight for Froome (yellow jersey holder, tour Winner).
Finally, things cleared out. Good thing too, as it would have been a bit of a mess with the riders quickly approaching.
Initial Arrival of the Riders:
The yellow LCL motorcycle is your first clear indication that the peloton (or leaders) are seconds away. Perhaps a minute at most.
Then there’s the Mavic neutral car, and small army of police motorcycles just ahead of the leaders (as well as often behind them). We wondered whether the police motorcycles that were ‘with’ the Tour each day stayed with the Tour the entire duration, or changed from town to town.
Then, just as quickly as the motorcycles went by, the riders came in. It was led by Team Sky, which Froome, the leader/winner of the Tour is part of. You can just see the yellow splotch to the right in the photo below. That’s him (yellow jersey and all).
Then came the full peloton. At this point, they were mostly in celebration mode, and not really yet racing.
They’d zip across in front of the famous Louvre entrance pyramid, and then around the roundabout in front before heading through the Louvre building out to Rivoli street.
As they continued on down Rivoli, and then up to the Champs-Élysées, we were treated to a flyover and colored smoke of the French flag.
With the flyover complete, the race would began in earnest. Now of course, baring any DNF-style major accident, Froome with his 5 minute lead would stay the yellow jersey leader and overall winner. But up for contention would be the stage-win.
Getting down to business:
By the time the riders had reached Paris city limits they’d actually been riding a few hours. While they started at Versailles, only about 25 minutes away at Ray-riding speed, they went off and wandered in rural areas for a bit.
Once they got into city limits and past the Louvre, they’d then shift into a 10-loop route. This route actually wouldn’t include the Louvre section you saw above, but instead was slightly shorter. It’d still take then around all the major sights though on this side of the river.
Each lap would take about 10 minutes to complete. Here’s the group coming up out of the tunnel under the Tuileries Gardens.
After going under the gardens they’d hit the long straightaway of Rivoli avenue. This is one of the more famous shopping streets in Paris, and also where many expensive hotels are.
You can see below David Millar of Team Garmin at the lead of the (still together) peloton.
There were a few riders that had fallen off the back for any number of reasons. Being on the ground watching the Tour you actually have very little context about ‘why’ something has occurred. From a holistic standpoint the Tour is much better watched on TV, as otherwise you really only know about the time slice of time right in front of you.
This rider here was catching back up to the main field via a bit of high speed drafting. We saw another rider getting his pedal fixed by a team car while holding on at speeds easily approaching 50MPH or higher trying to catch back up.
Up above you can see one of those fancy hotels and a number of guests out on the balconies watching.
Meanwhile a lap later Millar and a friend had broken free of the peloton, working on creating a bit of a lead.
At this point, that lead was less than 10 seconds.
In case you’re wondering what this entire spectacle looked like each time from the ground on video, here ya go, a quick snippet of what we saw 10 times over:
While it may have been evening, it certainly wasn’t cool out. The heat and humidity this weekend were pretty warm for Paris. I had completed a bike-run brick earlier in the morning (including sections of the course during my run), and it was hot quite early on.
Fear not, The Girl had a solution. She and our neighbor picked up these little misting things at the time-trial stage last week. They were pump driven, so no batteries involved. Pure awesome.
Back on the course, the lead extended slowly, each lap adding a few seconds.
A couple laps later, and Millar had lost his friend. Because we have no context on the rest of the course, we weren’t clear if he purposefully dropped him, or if the other rider just couldn’t hold on anymore.
At its peak, the lead was close to 30 seconds or so.
While I was at the Louvre earlier, The Girl had secured the awesome spot along the course fence-line for all the photos above. But after a number of laps I decided to wander a short distance and check out other vantage points.
In the case below, a bit higher up on the park fence structure. You can see how as the speed of the peloton has increased, it expands hundreds of meters down the avenue.
Around 2 laps to go a small contingent from Colombia came proudly marching down the street. Come to think of it, the fans on our stretch were pretty tame last night, especially compared to Alpe d’Huez and other stages.
If you look down the course, you can see how quickly the light is starting to fade. Now, the photos and TV do make it look darker than it was (even after increasing brightness).
The Final Lap:
Counting to 10 is hard work. Especially when you’re not 100% clear if the first lap was part of the 10 laps, or if that was a ‘bonus lap’.
Thankfully, they had a system for that. In part, because we happened to be just at the 1K (as in 1 kilometer to go banner).
Just after the peloton passed, the automatically controlled banner rolled down, exposing it’s 1K-ness to the world.
The next group we’d see would be screaming fast. These were the sprinters all going for the stage win. Nabbing the stage win on what is arguably the biggest cycling day in the world is a pretty big deal.
Following them, the main peloton went by, including Froome – who looked to be more or less soft-pedaling his way down the avenue.
And then finally 2-3 minutes later came the very last rider. Without question he got far bigger cheers than Froome or any other rider did.
It’s rare that I can give credit to Parisian efficiency, but I’ve gotta say – the speed at which they deflated and took down the 1K to go banner was astounding.
We’re talking maybe 60-90 seconds after that last rider went through and the banner was on the ground across the road.
From there the first order of business for us was finding food. It had been roughly lunch since we’d eaten last. And there was a lot of walking (and riding actually) in between then. It worked out perfectly that the summer Paris carnival was right behind us (where we were standing).
Having walked through the area before, I was pretty jazzed to re-find the Granita stand. Nothing hits the spot better than a Slushie of sorts. This stand is actually one of the ones with the smallest selection. But at this point, I wasn’t going to be picky.
Then we continued our way across the Tuileries Gardens, working our way to and through the Louvre back home. You can see the carnival in the background.
Along the way we took a stroll past the beach. Yes, beach. The Paris beaches (Paris Plages) along the Seine are setup again, opening this past weekend and will then stay open about a month. All in it’s about a mile or so long of shutdown highway, complete with real sand. Here’s a post on it from last summer.
And then finally…real food! While Indian food may not be the most French thing to eat on the finishing night of the Tour de France, it was the most quick and convenient thing to eat (aside from a hot dog). At 10:29PM – we’re looking for quick and convenient. Plus, it was good!
With that it’s back to watching daily soap operas instead of the Tour each afternoon.
Thanks for reading!
Note: If you’re looking for more ways to procrastinate doing anything this Monday morning, here’s all my past Tour de France posts.