Friday, July 31, 2009

Chickenblog and The Tour de France

Barcelona, Catalunya and Le Tour de France and Chickenblog... we just did it!

When we realized that we were traveling just ahead of the Tour, when we passed up the Live strong-Just Do It entourage in Montpellier, France we got pretty excited. It never occurred to us that we would be so fortunate. In planning our three week, 7 country, family adventure factoring in seeing any stage of the month long cycling extravaganza did not register. As soon as we were in Provence, Tour fever was everywhere and we caught it. In Barcelona we headed to our favorite Internet cafe and logged on for a Tour de France update and specifics on the route through Barcelona. Even though the day of the race was pouring down rain, we were determined to see the sixth stage of this historic race... especially on the historic occasion of it being the first time in 44 years that the race would ride through Catalunya!

The sixth stage of the race was 181.5 km... over 112 miles! In the rain. Riding bicycles. The least we could do was stand on the curb and cheer. The umbrellas were a help, but unfortunately we didn't buy them until we were already soaked.

And our plan started to seem a bit ridiculous. Was anyone else going to come out and cheer for the riders?

Max was the only one convinced the plan was in fact ridiculous. We may have lost a Tour fan, but I cannot blame him. The circumstances were testy, especially for him. Alex and William grasped the concept and appreciated the momentous-ness of what was coming. As for Maria... well she was actually totally on board, rain and all. We told her we were waiting for people on bicycles. But well ahead of the bicycles there is a parade.

"Parade" is a term I am using loosely here. Here in the States our parades are slow; they have a predictable pace that allows for ample to time to appreciate and admire the floats, the riders, the vibe of the event. Our parades are practically a crawl. In the Tour the thousands of cars, motorcycles and "floats" that precede the cyclists are traveling at breakneck speeds. They are bookin'. They do not slow down in the curve or wait for adoring spectators to wave. It's a 40-50-60 MPH blur of honking, shouting, blaring, whizzing passed commercial hoopla and then they are gone. **poof**

From our vantage point we could see them turn from Passeig de Lluís Companys and come down where we were standing on Passeig Pujades. Finally our long walk in the rain and the wait were paying off. Okay, so it's not as much work as riding 112 miles in the rain, but we were feeling pumped! And we cheered and jumped for every motorcycle and promo-car. We probably should have been pacing ourselves, saving our voices...

The parade lasted a long time.

Sure, they are racing passed and the noise and music and blaring excitement is amazing, but it lasted a long time. There were approximately four thousand vehicles in the race, and we stood in the rain cheering for every single one. Actually sometimes I would remind myself we there to see cyclists.

And who is the biggest fan of the Tour De France? You're looking at her!

Maria loves a long, fast moving parade. Maria loves a long, fast moving parade where the promo-cars toss swag to the crowds!
Swag = promotional merchandise = freebies = hats, stickers, toys, T shirts, candy, bags = stuff!

After a while the parade of vehicles was coming fewer and farther between so we dashed across the street to stake out a new spot... hopefully a drier corner! We walked to the Arc de Triomf where hundreds of spinners (?) were participating in an attempt to make a world record for number of people spinning in the same place. I think they had to try again for the record, since the rain kept many people away, but they had spirit and it was awesome when they all donned the Live Strong Yellow shirts.

On the big screens we could see live coverage of the Tour as it made its way through the city. And on the course there were still long lines of police on motorcycles and more parade drama. My thought: What a great day to get in to mischief... every cop in the region must be speeding through town in the parade.

At least the rain let up. By now we realized that cheering loudly for every passing auto was a waste of our energy, and we could see from the jumbo screens that the main event was finally riding in to Barcelona!

By now we were sharing the sidewalk with an actual crowd, and when the spinners finished breaking the record, they spread out in to the crowd and handed everyone Live Strong swag bags... with the brightest yellow chalk and the classic Armstrong yellow bracelets.

Once the helicopter started circling tight over our heads we knew we were going to see cyclists, and then down the street the crowd really burst with cheers.
Here they come!

My poor camera was not prepared for capturing those awesome professional athlete in motion portraits. The average speed in this sixth stage was 15 MPH, and in this flat, straight section I think they must have been going a lot faster. They were a blur.

Look! There's Lance. He's the one in blue and yellow, with a helmet. Just kidding. I don't know. He was there.

Astana. Apparently Alberto Contador just turned down 16 million Euro from the Kazakhstan sponsored team. I wonder what Lance's plans are.

The race was over quickly... for us. Of course the riders still had to pedal to the finish line for that day and then ride to Paris in 15 more races or "stages." The Live Strong website has more facts about the Tour, like how many calories were burned in stage 6... Answer: 5,096.7 kcalories. That's a lot of tapas!

While watching the riders it was near impossible to single out a particular face or team, but later I was amused by one particular racer. He's on the right. It's his expression that makes me endlessly speculate. Was he happy? Was he resigned? Does he like tapas?

I think the rider on the left was worried about his teammate in the middle... the guy in the middle is bleeding. The guy on the right is thinking about something else... but what?

That face. The look. I'm thinking of this guy... Mr. Bean. He could almost be described as cranky, even offended, but I gotta cut him some slack. He'd had a long day.

I'm cutting her some slack. She'd had a long day too!

And that is all. Chickenblog sports coverage... yeah, I can do it!


nikkipolani said...

Great coverage of the pre-event, the crowd, the high drama, and the after-commentary. I felt like I was right there without having to get wet!

Susan said...

What a trooper Maria is! She should get a medal for sticking it out and for all that cheering. Great post!

mtnchild said...

Wonderful post! Your excitement came through loud and clear ... and that girl of yours - too precious!


Tiglizzyclone said...

Cool photos Natalie! I especially love each and every photo with the umbrellas in them! Rain too... which we haven't had for months.

Also the Tour De France!

CrazyCris said...

it looks and sounds like Maria had a blast!

I'm not a big fan of cycling (unless it involves being with a large group of crazy Spaniards running around the Arc tu Triomphe in Paris singing "Indurain, Indruain, Induraaaaaain"! at the top of our voices 15 years ago...), but I did get a thrill out of having the first stage of the Tour go under my window a few years back! I was living in Liège (Belgium) and the first étape (individual against the clock) took place there... and the route had all these cyclists going right under my window! For hours... I got a shot of Armstrong (well his back seen from above), I had the TV on to let me know when he's be out of the starting gate, but was easy 'cause as winner of the previous Tour he was the last one out!

Silliyak said...

Nice pictures, and when we were in Barcelona, our apt looked out over the Arc De Triumph. However, I am confused, what is the Tour de FRANCE doing in Barcelona?