I had the great fortune to drive most of the race course routes on the mountain stages of the 2010 Tour de France. That in itself was an exciting and unique adventure.
The final kilometers of the last climb were always done at a crawl, my rental car slowly pushing through the human sea. Just like on the television, it’s a parting for the ocean, you feel like you’re going to accidentally kill people who are just too excited, too drunk, too busy with their chalk to get out of the way. It’s like driving through a dance party and nobody wants to get off the floor when they’re shaking to their favorite song just because you’re about to crush them with a motor vehicle.
People spilled drinks through my open driver side window, kids waved and pounded on the side of the car, crowds of fans cheered every car coming up the mountain as a sure sign the racers were not far behind. I was an honored guest at the best show in sports.
After the first few mountain stages I had my daily routine down: stop at whatever little bar restaurant looked good on the way and grab two sandwiches, a hunk of local cheese, a baguette, a bottle of red wine, and a bottle of water for that sad moment when the wine ran out.
Then I’d park at the summit and load up my daypack with those provision plus my camera, notebook and several pens. Thus equipped, I’d hike down the climb looking for the best viewing spot with the wildest looking fans.
I’d find a seat on the hillside and enjoy my snacks and beverages and note down my finely calibrated observations. That’s what I’ll be doing this year and I’m already goose-bumped with anticipation.
To be on a mountaintop with wine and cheese and the greatest climbers in the world headed your way, well that tops even certain sexual acts in my book. So really, if I could combine the two that might just be too much.
I’m ready to be in the little French rental car inching my way up the mountain to cycling nirvana.