Picture this – a couple of little kids from Back of Bourke as adults standing on the balcony of the US Embassy with everyone from the Cannondale Drapac Cycling looking over the Champs Elysee watching the conclusion of the 2017 Tour d France. No, I can’t believe it either – still pinching myself as to what an amazing opportunity this has been. Thank you, Michael and Fran, for firstly giving John a reason to travel (hope he has the bug now it’s a big world out there) and allowing me to tag along with John.
Now back to day one Paris after a good breakfast at the hotel, we took a taxi to the first meeting point. Twenty minutes later we were meeting up with Michel Fran and Nikki in from to of the Hermes saddlery. Breathtaking is the only word I can use to describe the whole experience. Maybe one of the most exclusive places I have ever visited, their horse gear was amazing but I would be too frightened to use on a horse my luck it would pull back or rear over on the saddle and break the tree. I will go back one day so I can just take it all in more slowly next time. It would take a small village of people to staff the place never seen so many attendances in a place of retail. Did I mention our bags were checked on the way in before they open the doors to let us in?
After Hermes, it was off to ‘the best’ cake shop in Paris with Michael taking the lead and my sweet tart was decorated with the tiniest wild strawberries I have ever seen. They were so yummy even for me who doesn’t eat much sweet food. Finished our sampling our cakes and tarts we were off again heading for the Brute Saddlery the highlight for me was the man who just doubled parked ‘the merc’ to duck in (resplendent in his joddies and boots ) to do a spot shopping on the way to ride out. Despite the honking of the horns while traffic negotiated around his car all while he made his purchases and headed off on his merry way. The arrogance of it was priceless or maybe he thought they had valet parking and didn’t wait for valet lol.
After leaving Michael and Fran (having walked all over Paris) John and I decided to get the shopping out of the way, John wants to go back to the first shop we saw that morning to make his purchases for the girls. What’s the rule, Grandma? If you see like then buy it now, because we won’t be coming back. We did go back and he was really happy with his purchases, the last of which he made while I sat in a cafe sipping coffee and resting up. I did a Disney store run for Sarah and purchase Pluto for Ollie to replace the one that was left at the airport in LA earlier this year. He little face lit up when it arrived home. I purchased my pandora Eiffel Tower to add to my collection and that was shopping done for me.
We decided after a rest to head around the square and look for some dinner which we found can’t remember what I had but it was okay from memory. After dinner we decided to cab it over and take a look at the Eiffel tower at night, this area has changed a bit now you go through security to stand underneath and purchase tickets to go up. This is a change for the better as even if you don’t plan to go up you are not badgered by the street select rattling their junk souvenirs and trying to get you to buy tacky little Eiffel towers. Allows more time to wander around and take in the enormity of the tower. We didn’t go up but decided to walk back towards the hotel before cabbing it home the last bit. We collapsed into bed ready to meet the team tomorrow for the big day.
After breakfast, we set off to meet the others at Criterion Hotel and take the bus out to the start of the final stage. The binding of the most amazing sporting day ever for me, one I will never forget. I can’t thank Michael, the Cannondale Drapac team and especially Yas for looking after us so well. On the bus we quickly introduced ourselves to everyone, people from all around the world connect with Michael and the team.
It took about 40-50 minutes to get to the village Montgeron. Montgeron is a commune in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 18.5 km (11.5 mi) from the center of Paris.
It was a sight to behold there were people, buses and cars with bikes on top everywhere. It is such amazing logistical nightmare that seems to just work day after day for 21 days every year. We got to witness all the sponsors parade where they throw samples to the crowd. I thought they were going round and round but it was just one lot but went on forever. After the sponsor parade, we headed to the team bus and met the team and watched them get ready to ride the final leg. The all have different ways preparing some listening to music come out with the crowd sign autographs other checking their bikes. Can’t believe were we so close, John and Taylor Phinney (who must be 6’4”) shared a few laughs over their difference in their heights.
We boarded the bus to try and get back as close to US embassy as we could before abating the bus, unfortunately, it was not close at all as Paris had been transformed after we left and all roads were closed. So it was off the bus to walk many miles from one side of the River Sene down past the Louvre and back up the other side to the embassy, we were exhausted and very thirsty by the time we got there although at on stage John ducked off and purchased welcome water for those in our walking group. For a while, it looked like we wouldn’t make it in time to see the finish but we just made in time for them to come into town and down the Champs-Élysées the first of 20 laps around the Arc De Triomphe. What a sight!!
Can’t even begin to describe what this was like on the balcony of the US Embassy overlooking the Champs Elyse as the riders did their stuff and finish of 21 days of racing.
The celebration began in earnest when the Cannondale Drapac rider Rigoberto (Rigo) Urán crossed the line in 2nd place (their best ever finish top 10 was the goal. The champagne was flowing until late into the night. The team riders all arrived back to rousing reception and settled into the celebrations with much relief that it was all over for another year. It was almost 11pm when I called it a night and walked the couple black back to the hotel, leaving the door unlocked for John who rolled in couple hours later. We had to be on the train to England earliest the next morning, so made sure I was packed before collapsing into bed for our final night in Paris. Still, can’t believe how fortunate I have been to have this opportunity it will go down as the biggest world sporting event I have ever attended by far.