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4 weeks in the life of a Tour de France follower, part 2

Added: saturday 25 August 2007 at 20:44:00
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    4 weeks in the life of a Tour de France follower, part 2While the riders have already done several criteriums, the Germany Tour, the Tour de l'Ain, etc. and while they're currently in Belgium and The Netherlands for the Enecotour , I'm still talking here about the Tour de France ... while reading this you'll understand why!

    As I announced it here some time ago, I worked on the Tour de France during the month of July to create the blog Orange dans le Tour.

    On the 'Orange dans le Tour' blog I gave a look behind the scenes of the Tour and that's why I did a lot of different things in the Tour de France 2007: the advertising caravan (Panach', Festina, Skoda), the advertising caravan direction, Mavic, des journées avec deux équipes (AG2R et Caisse d'Epargne), France Télévisions, but of course also some days in one of the Orange 'avant-course' cars.

    My experience of 4 weeks in the Tour in 4 blog posts completed with some pictures (soon you'll find many more pictures in the photos section of this website) ...


    The second week


    The second week for us, the first for the Tour de France ... A quite busy week with the prologue in the city centre of London, the first stage from London to Canterbury still in the UK, followed by two stages in Belgium, it was quite an international start for this Tour de France 2007!

    Saturday 7 July, the prologue

    After a week during which we prepared the Tour, this was finally the day of the real start of the 94th Tour de France. It was a magic date, 07/07/07, but also a magic day with a lot of sun and a blue sky above London!

    First of all we took the cars to go to the 'Permanence' of the Tour. From there I took a shuttle to get to the centre of London: first by bus et and then by boat on the Thames (that's great!) passing under the Tower Bridge for example. Once I arrived close to the start of the Prologue, I went to the Village Départ which was at that time not open to invitees yet. That's why we've been able to see the official opening ceremony of the Village Départ, where next to Christian Prudhomme (the Tour de France director) and Jean-Marie Leblanc (the former Tour director), the mayor of London and Paris, Ken Livingstone and Bertrand Delanoë (cf. photo), were also present.
    Then I went for a short walk in the Village Départ and around the Village where the riders were riding around to discover the stage's track. That's how I crossed Michael Boogerd and Thomas Dekker of the Rabobank team (two generations of riders for the team) for example and I asked them whether they would pose for a picture. I continued my walk to go to the team buses.
    After having explained to some journalists what I was going to do during the Tour de France, I went to the place where all riders started to see some of them starting (I had a perfect view, standing right next to the France Télévisions camera).
    Then I went to see a colleague and friend, Julien, who now works and lives in London. In order to see each other it took him almost two hours to get close to the start (because of the crowd and because many roads were closed, also for pedestrians!) and finally he ended up on the other side of the road ... Since there were barriers everywhere in the centre of London it was impossible to get to the other side of the road, but a Tour de France badge is like magic in those kind of situations :-)! I simply went to see some of the (many) English police officers who just opened the barriers on both sides to allow me to cross over :-). I was happy to see Julien there (and to tell him about what I would do during a month ;-). Finally I got back to the start to see the last riders starting.
    At around 7PM we went to one of the cars which came to London and we've been driving around in the labyrinth London becomes when many roads are closed before leaving the centre.
    7 July 2007: Tour de France prologue

    > Watch all photos I took on the 7th of July

    Sunday 8 July, first stage: London > Canterbury

    The first stage left London at 10h20 (pretty early compared to other stages) and the Village Départ (at the same place as the day before) therefore also opened early: at 7h30. Our alarm clocks woke us up early that day and that allowed us to immediately get into the Tour de France rhythm (which simply means short night!
    I passed this day in one of Orange's 'avant-course' cars. The 'avant-course' cars are between the advertising caravan and the riders and sometimes pass part of the advertising caravan (however they only have the right to do that once a day, so there's no stopping and passing again). We were again lucky with the weather, since we again saw a blue sky and a beautiful sun shining on us! That weather, combined with a big crowd of people, definitely made it a good start of the Tour de France! The people were very enthusiastic and very often said 'bonjour' with a nice English accent :-)!
    The stage was really great and close to Canterbury (where the stage finished), I was able to see the Tour de France from the sky in a helicopter for the second time in my life!
    At the finish we went (as all other days to follow) to the 'Espace Tourmalet', which is one of the VIP spaces reserved for Tour de France partners and their invitees.
    Once the riders arrived, we went back to our cars as soon as possible because we still had one of those famous 'transfers' to do ... first of all by car back to Dover (still with a GPS which only knows France), followed by the trip by boat to Calais. In Dover we were lucky, because SeaFrance managed to get us all on a boat one hour earlier than initially planned and while waiting for the boat we met many other Tour partners which we continued to see for the rest of the Tour. On the boat I interviewed someone from SeaFrance about this big operation for the Tour de France ...
    Once we arrived in Calais we went to a restaurant before going to our hotel which was in Calais as well.
    8 July 2007: the first stage (London > Canterbury) and the transfer to Calais

    > Watch all photos I took on the 8th of July

    Monday 9 July, Dunkirk > Ghent

    This stage was the first of this Tour de France which started in France, but we quite rapidly left France to go to Belgium.

    Since I was still more or less discovering what happens around a 'normal' stage of the Tour de France (for a follower of the Tour), I went to see the signature car with the start city's name and logo and the advertising caravan before getting back to the Village Départ. Fortunately, on my way back I saw Fabien and his colleague in a Newsport car, so I didn't have to get back to the Village Départ by foot under the rain!

    This day again, I did the stage in a Orange 'avant-course' car to Ghent where we had some surprises at the finish ... first of all of course the horrible fall of almost the whole pack of riders (fortunately the sprinters were in front of the first rider who fell so it probably didn't change the result of this stage). The second surprise was the winner of the stage ... while Gert Steegmans' role was to allow Tom Boonen to have a good place to win the final sprint, Tom finally wasn't able to get over Steegmans anymore, so Gert Steegmans won the stage himself. Steegmans seemed to be a little embarrassed with this, but I think he deserved it and those kind of surprises make cycling fun!

    After the finish we went to our hotel, which was ... strangely in France (Neuville en Ferain) while the next day's stage also left from Belgium!
    9 July 2007: Dunkirk > Ghent: start, belgium spectators and the finish

    > Watch all photos I took on the 9th of July

    Tuesday 10 July, Waregem > Compiègne

    The next day the stage left from Belgium to finally definitely get back to France. This was the longest stage of the Tour de France 2007 with no less than 236,5 kilometres to get to the finish!

    In the morning in the Village Départ, I interviewed Marc Vinco who every morning during the whole Tour did a VTT Trial show. I also interviewed Laurent Jalabert to talk about Monday's stage and its surprises .

    When we left Waregem, we saw a 'Flanders' hot air balloon and I decided to take a picture of it. The driver of my car, Jean-François Rault, stopped to allow me to cross the road to get an even better view. That was great, because I really like the result ... however, 10 kilometres later I realised that I lost the cover of my phone's battery there and during the Tour de France that's too late, because you can't go back :-(.

    At the finish we went for a walk in the technical zone to see the video interview truck. In this truck I also saw the video connections which are used for the stage winner's interview. When we were there, one screen showed the riders and the other some journalists sitting quite relaxed in the press room a few meters from where we were (cf. photo).
    Finally I met the Champion (polka dot jersey for the best climber) and Skoda (white jersey for the best young rider) misses and I decided to write blog post about the Tour's protocol misses .
    10 July 2007: Waregem > Compiègne

    > Watch all photos I took on the 10th of July

    Wednesday 11 July, Villers-Cotterêts > Joigny

    The first stage completely in France was not far from Paris, so that allowed my manager to come see us and pass the day with us.
    Villers-Cotterêts organised a nice ecological operation : the city, together with ASO, planted 14 beech trees. This number of beech trees exactly corresponds to the number of trees which is necessary to fix the CO2 emitted by all Tour de France cars.

    In March 2007 Sergines organised its carnival around the Tour de France theme. One of the cars used for this carnival (the 'Yellow jersey at a time trial') completed with a map of France with the Tour 2007 stages of another car ('La reine, le podium') and 'The bike scale 3:1' were planted in a field close to the stage's track (next to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne I think) (cf. photo). In this field there was enough room for all cars, unfortunately the others were not there ... I would have loved to see the 'Nain gourmand' or 'La peluche lion' for example). On March 1st and 2nd of next year there will be a new carnival in Sergines!

    At the end of the stage we passed the advertising caravan and after the finish we drove next to Fabian Cancellara (CSC) who was still wearing the yellow jersey at that time, which allowed me to take some nice pictures of him.
    11 July 2007: Villers-Cotterêts > Joigny: carnival in Sergines, advertising caravan and Fabian Cancellara (CSC)

    > Watch all photos I took on the 11th of July

    Thursday 12 July, Chablis > Autun

    After a short stop at Milram's hotel and the daily classique car cleaning scene , my usual driver and I went to the Village Départ.
    Once we arrived there I went to see the teams parking (which was on one side of a long road between the Village Départ and the start of that day's stage: really horrible with all cars passing by on the other side of the road) and I interviewed Sabino, one of the mechanics of the AG2R team .

    On the stage's track, Vitry really made a lot of efforts for the 'Concours de décoration des villes et villages du Tour de France' and the result was really cool! In La Porolle they also showed some decoration as well as just before Autun with people dressed up as Gallo-Romans!
    In Saint-Léger-sous-Beuvray we briefly stopped at the 'Relais Etape' to see our colleagues who worked there and the other Tour partners.
    Finally, at the finish I was able to take some pictures of Erik Zabel (Milram) in his green jersey and again the yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara (CSC).

    During this stage we were quite close to the track of the Le Creusot > Montceau-les-Mines time trial track on which I was invited by Orange (Samsung actually) last year.
    12 July 2007: Chablis > Autun: Sabino - mechanic for AG2R, decoration in Vitry and Gallo-Romans in Autun and Erik Zabel (Milram) in green

    > Watch all photos I took on the 12th of July

    Friday 13 July, Semur-en-Auxois > Bourg-en-Bresse

    It was a Friday 13th, but that definitely didn't have influenced my day which was great ... because this day I was right in the center of the stage in a Mavic car which stayed behind Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) (who didn't managed to stay at front until Bourg-en-Bresse however).
    That day, at the toll pay point I saw the Cochonou cars, so I decided to go and see Adeline who writes the cochonouetvous.com blog to agree to see each other a little later on the caravan parking for an interview between bloggers. The result was an article on the Orange dans le Tour blog which gives a look behind the scenes of the Tour de France and an article on the Cochonou et Vous blog :-).
    The same morning in the Village Départ I told Laurent Jalabert I would be in a Mavic car that day and when he saw our car a few hours later he came to see us to pose for a picture :-). We also saw Gio Lippens of the NOS Dutch radio and their Radio Tour de France show who asked for some tape ... at that time I decided to interview Gio Lippens two days later .
    That night we were in a hotel in a great place: Pérouges ... a small medieval city where we also went to the party for the national holiday (the party is the night before)!!
    13 July 2007: Semur-en-Auxois > Bourg-en-Bresse: Adeline of Cochonou, Bradley Wiggins, Mavic, the chalk man and Laurent Jalabert

    > Watch all photos I took on the 13th of July

    Saturday 14 July, Bourg-en-Bresse > Le Grand-Bornand

    That Saturday, national holiday in France, I spent the day with the very nice Panach' advertising caravan team. After the team photo and some last minute preparations, we left the caravan parking in Bourg-en-Bresse at 10h23 for Grand-Bornand.
    During the day I regularly went in another car to see everything of this advertising caravan, talk with some of the team members and take pictures ... many pictures! That day alone, I took no less than 565 pictures and videos!!

    The day and sceneries were great, the sun was shining (or should I say buring on us?). Kevin, the driver of one of the New Beetle cars even asked for a cap for me since it was really hot and in a car without a roof, the sun can be quite dangerous!
    The finish in Le Grand-Bornand was really great with very enthusiastic people and some nice sceneries as well!
    During this stage I saw parts of the stage Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Morzine I spent with La Vache Qui Rit last year.

    Also during this stage, we saw the first fan of the blog Orange dans le Tour among all spectators . Since he discovered a 'behind the scenes' look of the Tour on the blog I was writing, he wanted to meet us and with the big banner he created he could be sure we would see him! I really liked this by the way, because it proved that the blog I created was really appreciated ...
    14 July 2007: Bourg-en-Bresse > Le Grand-Bornand: the Panach advertising caravan


    To be continued in an article about the third week of my Tour de France adventure (the second week of the Tour de France 2007)!
    > Watch all photos I took on the 14th of July

    > Read the next article (third week) ...
    < Read the article about the first week of preparation ...

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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    this article appears in the following categories: Tour de France| Tour de France 2007 | share on Facebook | delicious | twitter | Google | technorati

Comments

Currently 1 comments!
  1. Super om ook na de Tour de France nog die leuke verhalen te lezen!
    Ben nu al benieuwd naar het artikel over week 3...

    | Meggie | saturday 25 August 2007 at 23:43:12

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