Ahh yes, one of the best days of the year for a cyclist living in Paris. No, actually, definitely the best day of the year for a cyclist living in this city. And this year didn’t disappoint!
This was, I believe, my 5th time watching the finish of Le Tour here in Paris. The last few years we’ve also had La Course (a one-day women’s race) held the same day on the same circuit, but unfortunately this year they did some wonky stuff and made it a 1.5 day race in a land far, far away. Thus, no coverage of that this year from me. Sad panda.
The 2017 edition of the TdF actually held some notable tweaks to the final stage, especially for spectators familiar with the route. For example, the Tour did not route pass the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre, as it has for many years (seen here from last year). The reason?
They instead routed through the Grand Palais building, where they did an overlay of Olympic runners and swimmers next to the cyclists on either side. This was done to promote the Paris 2024 Olympic bid, but honestly came out a little gimmicky looking (photo of the big screen near me). Still, I’m looking forward to Paris being awarded the 2024 games. 😉
It would have been super cool had this building been packed with fans though and to have the athletes come through that with everyone roaring. Oh well. Hopefully next year they’ll be back to the Louvre.
In any case, I was up on the course earlier in the morning, doing a handful of meetings around town. This weekend is always busy for me with both industry folk and just regular readers like yourself being in town – so I’m usually doing a number of quick meet-ups here and there.
But I returned to the course later in the afternoon about two hours prior to the riders arriving. It’s here I got to see the caravan slowly snake its way around the circuit. Note that they don’t throw candy or giveaways in Paris (maybe not the final stage at all, not sure). By the time they get here it’s just one big party:
A few times as parts of the caravan exited the route for the final time they’ll stop and take a quick group pic:
I worked my way down Rivoli to Concorde. Some of the best spots are in the various buildings that line the route, like this one:
I eventually found my spot right in Concorde. In previous years I’ve never had media credentials, so I was always wandering the course like everyone else (albeit with the advantage of being a local). Certainly you can get plenty of amazing photos that way, but at the same time the security changes over the last two years have made that more difficult. For example, the closing of the Jardin des Tuileries during the race and sidewalks against it meant there are far fewer perspectives for those without credentials. It’s too bad.
In past years I’ve spent a lot of time on the outer perimeter of the course, as well as in the gardens bouncing back and forth. Heck, even up in the Ferris wheel! So this year when I found my spot in the epicenter of it all – I was definitely pretty happy.
From here I could get quite a few new angles for me, as well as catch the finish and the awards ceremony. Plus, they’ve got big screens to watch as well, so it’s easy to keep up with the race.
And soon they came in, led out by Team Sky, as is customary to have the winning rider’s team lead the first loop.
Oh, I nearly forgot – the French Air Force jets came over…not once, but twice! It’s as if they were bored pre-arrival and had some extra colored smoke to burn. They first did a huge sweeping circle over Paris prior to the peloton arriving, super cool as I’ve never seen them do that in the five years I’ve lived here.
Here’s them passing by the Eiffel Tower:
And then as is customary, when the riders approach the finish area on the first loop they fly down the Champs-Élysées.
But, as you know what’s more interesting to me is some of the stuff around the race. For example, in this area there were actually a number of grandstands. These are roughly divided up into a few different camps. On one side you had sponsor related stands (left side above). I’d say some of the loudest and most into it fans I saw were actually this group from Bora (though, Norwegian corner still takes the cake overall):
These guys were rockin’ it!
On the other side (closest to the finish), you had various Tour de France official/VIP stands. The stands immediately after the finish line were the most fancy looking and had all sorts of VIP peoples, including names on peoples chairs. For example, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was up here:
What’s interesting is that in this section they were running a bit of an Uber for Tour de France finish loops operation. As the race was going on these cars would pickup three passengers and go for a loop around the course. They had to stay in the multi-kilometer gap away after the riders/team cars, but before the lead riders. Said differently: Virtually no chance of impacting the race, and they were all driven by the same ASO officials cars that drove the entire course.
They also appeared to pause when going up the Champs-Élysées when the riders were coming down the opposite side. I suspect that was done just to allow the guests better photos.
Finally, you got the ‘regular’ stands. These are for all sorts of guests of whomever, be it ASO, teams, or even me.
Yup, I actually got guest tickets! Each accredited media member is allowed up to four guests into the Tour Fan Zone or related (depending on the stage), during the entire Tour. You apply for it via a little paper form in the media center and then wait and hope you get them, kinda like a lottery. I applied back on Day 1 of the tour for four passes for my parents, The Girl, and the Peanut, and managed to get them. Here’s my parents enjoying the festivities!
The Girl meanwhile was with The Peanut attempting to get into the same zone and due to a minor navigational error somehow actually ended up in the team buses and a fancier zone. Obviously, when you accidentally end up in a nicer area, the first rule of TdF Club is: Don’t leave TdF Club. So she enjoyed that and the view.
Meanwhile, I spent my time actually near/in front of them, just out in the protected photographer zone in between the two directions of travel for the riders:
What’s interesting here is that there’s actually a TV motorcycle that blasts through this area at about 40-45MPH following the riders. It keeps him protected (or the riders protected), in the event of a high-speed incident. Here’s what that looks like:
The only trick is remembering the moto is a non-moto photographer working in this zone. Thankfully it stays to one side (the same side), so as long as you remember that you’re safe, so it’s easy enough.
From there it’s onto the 8 loops of the 7KM circuit. I have countless photos of this, so here’s a small gallery of a few interesting ones.
Where it gets really fun of course is that final loop. There’s actually a man that rings a bell, alongside a numerical sign that’s been counting down each loop. Both are hand-held.
And then finally, a short time later the actual finish itself. As most of you know, you won’t see people like Froome trying to win this, as the risk is too high that there might be a crash and then DNF. So this is all about winning the stage, and every few years it might settle a podium or jersey spot as well.
This is also among the hardest of photos to get, since you’ve got about 50+ photographers lining up quite early to get their spots for this.
Not that I don’t care, but by now you’ve seen 18 variations of that image all over the interwebs already. So I rather have spent my time elsewhere.
Speaking of which, within seconds. Not minutes, not 30 seconds, but seconds of the guys crossing the finish line they start moving the central protected channel barriers out of the roadway to make room for the podium. They’ve got a bunch of guys lined up to pull these out of the road.
Then from there, a couple of parade float looking trucks roam over to set up the podium. Everything is actually pre-marked with spray-paint on the ground. From the podium itself to where the photographer stands go, to where the TV cameras are pulled into position.
Once the work crews move away, then a bomb sniffing dog is brought in. They checked on top, around, under, everywhere.
Around the same time the various podium winners are meeting up with family and/or getting interviewed.
Some teams are also getting some quick final photos done:
And then finally…it was onto the awards ceremony. With the dark rain clouds this year, the lighting for all photos is tough (including mine), it’s not as ideal as years with really nice summer light (since it wouldn’t normally get dark for another 2.5+ hours). Shame.
Still, I got a few solid shots in there:
But with the harsh (and huge) spotlights brought in and the faded light, these are among my least favorite pictures of the day. It’s why when you look at the majority of Paris final stage photos from this year across most media outlets, there isn’t as much a focus on the podium pics as in years past. They all kinda look fake/weird. The yellow podium stand only serves to make the photo more challenging. I know, I’m being a photo snob.
Also in the ‘behind the scenes’ category, there’s actually a TV director sitting down in front of the podium. His job is like the conductor at the Oscars when they start playing the music, telling everyone to get off the podium to get the 30+ minute long presentation moving along. He’s the guy below waving his arms, pointing to the sides.
In case you were wondering, this is where I was standing:
Least favorite part? A dude within one person of me went through three cigarettes over course of the 30-minute ceremony. C’mon, seriously? Though, I smiled a bit inside when while changing a lens and concurrently smoking a cigarette he bumped the cigarette and all the ashes fell down into the back of the lens (the part that attaches to the camera). The best part? He didn’t notice it as he was looking elsewhere. Payback…
After the ceremony it was off for the couple mile walk back home. Both The Girl’s and my parents’ cell phones had died, but luckily I was able to run into The Girl and the Peanut, so we got a quick selfie before heading out:
With that – thanks for reading!
And in case ya missed it, here’s a rundown of all the Tour de France goodness from this year I’ve done:
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