No, we’re not talking about retired pros like Bernard Hinault.
We’re talking about a guy like this who you have to guess has seen more Tours de France in person that you ever will.
Being at the Tour is an amazing chance to see the greatest riders in the world right up close. But on the other side of the barrier, it’s also a chance to connect with the people of France who love Le Grand Shindig.
I snapped this vieux monsieur at a start town, two years ago. I’m guessing he is in his eighties or maybe even older. It’s hard to imagine him as a young boy, but try and see if you can.
I think of him in let’s say 1935 as an excited boy of ten, jumping up and down, bursting with anticipation, knowing that Le Tour and his heroes will be passing through his town this very day. Perhaps it was Antoine Magne, the winner in 1934 or Andre LeDucq, victorious in 1932 or perhaps Roger Lapebie, a champion in 1937.
He’s got on his light wool shorts with suspenders, a white or blue shirt and brown leather shoes because its a special occasion. He is pestering his dad, let’s go, let’s go, papa.
I have to kick myself now for not simply asking him for his name and the number of Tours he’d seen and who were his heroes. He was watching the race decades before even Jacques Anquetil was a champion.
I took his photo two years ago so there is every possibility that he has since died. And I can’t help but feel a little sad when I see his timeless French face.
My hope is that he is still alive and looking forward to the 100th birthday of his beloved Tour. Then I imagine he will die a happy man.