Ladies and gents, mesdames et messieurs, we are in final countdown mode for Le Grand Shindig that begins on the 29th day next month in Corsica. Ohh-la-la-la-la.
Every day from here on out we’re going full Tour and full gas with some photos and reminiscences our first two Tours. I don’t even want to see or hear the word tifosi for another year, Giro done, snow melted, on to La Belle France.
My first Tour was the total show, all three weeks of the 2010 edition that began in Rotterdam. After the pure stress of asking for a press credential on the spot in the press room in my rusty French while clutching my two assignment letters, one from Paved and the other from Cycle Sport, I was good to go. Near heart-attack but I pulled it off.
The credential gave me access to, among other things, the fabulous and fun Village du Depart each morning at the stage start. This is a gated off area the Tour creates for VIPs and rich people who pay for the privilege and low life journalists.
It was one of the best places to hang in the morning while you waited for the team buses to roll in. It was also your best shot at spotting past winners of the Tour like Bernard Hinault and ex-stars such as Raymond Poulidor and Richard Virenque soaking up the adulation.
The Village is where you can also sample the local delicacies of the region along with coffee, pastries, sausage and yes, wine. Imagine starting your day around 10:30 with a few glasses of French rose? You don’t to make a habit of that but it does put a bounce in your step. They don’t call it the Grand Depart for nothing.
The Village features a regular group of entertainers who travel with Le Tour. These include all manner of characters in costume, mimes, magicians, stilt walkers, musicians and Cirque de Soleil style performers.
The guy pictured above was part of the entertainment and had an amazing “burning wallet” trick that I never got tired of seeing. Then there was his hat. Who doesn’t want a chapeau with little bike racer figurines in the yellow, green and polka dot jerseys?
When I came back for the 2011 Tour de France, I was happy to see that Burning Wallet man was still there with his hat. I’m hoping to see him again soon. Vive Le Tour.