As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the reasons for our visit to Barcelona was that the Tour de France was making a detour into this area. We saw both the finish of stage 6 and the start of stage 7 here. It was very appropriate to be watching Le Tour in the city of Gaudi because it really is quite a spectacle. It’s a huge commercial for the sponsors, a sporting event, and a fiesta all at the same time.
Despite the pouring rain for stage 6, thousands of people turned up to line the route – everything from local residents who were just curious, casual cycling fans, and people on vacation to business people hanging out of office windows to get a view, and of course, the tour crazies. The weather held up for stage 7 and even more people packed the streets for that one. Traffic in Barcelona was probably a nightmare for anyone trying to get to work.
The race itself almost seems secondary to the caravan that goes before it. While the riders speed past you for just a few seconds, the caravan goes on for hours. It starts with more police motorcycles than I’ve ever seen in one place. After that, a whole string of official cars, team cars, press cars, and mechanics’ vans goes through. Then the fun begins. The sponsors floats come through blaring music and throwing tchotchkes to the fans who go nuts for this stuff. We snagged some polka dot hats, bottles of water, and gummy bears – it was a good haul. After the parade, there are more police (for this race both gendarmerie from France and guardia urbana from Barcelona) and more team cars. The later it gets, the faster they drive by, so you know the riders are close. Finally, after all that, the peloton flies by in a multi-colored blur of jerseys and bikes that last just a few seconds while everyone cheers.
After the riders were gone, we headed back the hotel to watch it on TV. This is one sport where the excitement is great, but there is something to be said for TV coverage to know where the riders are and what is happening out on the course. We’ve been watching it on Eurosport, usually with German or French commentators and the sound turned down. I really miss the Versus team, and Phil Liggett especially. Who else could tell us when they are “dancing on the pedals”?
On our way out of Barcelona back to France, we passed through the Pyrenees on the some of the same mountain passes that the riders will be taking over the next few days. We scouted the course and decided it’s much better to be going up these hills in a car.
Here is the pack underway. That’s Fabian in yellow and Cav in green.