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

Added: monday 24 September 2007 at 0:19:00
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    4 weeks in the life of a Tour de France follower, last partWhile Denis Menchov was wearing the 'golden' general ranking leader jersey in the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain) at his arrival in Madrid, I finally write the last blog post about 'my' Tour de France!

    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 fourth week


    The fourth week for us, the third and last week for the Tour de France ...

    Sunday 22 July, Mazamet > Plateau-de-Beille

    This day I was in the Festina advertising caravan. Actually I planned to do a short interview with Laurent Jalabert that morning - since the stage's start was in Mazamet, the place where Laurent and Nicolas Jalabert were born - but unfortunately I didn't have enough time to do so ...
    This day with Festina was really cool, especially at the end of the stage in the mountains where many people were happy to see the Tour's advertising caravan. I spent some time in each of the different cars of the caravan and I finished the stage in one of the Renault Espace cars with Maxime driving and Noémie giving out the famous 'bobs'.
    Just before the finish of this stage we saw yet another fan of the Orange dans le Tour blog . I actually was pretty lucky to see him because it was quite difficult to get him on the phone and I didn't expect to see him there (he said he would be further and ... on the other side of the road!). The other day I invited him and his sister in the Village Départ !

    The arrival of the riders was pretty cool with Alberto Contador as the stage winner. Leaving Plateau-de-Beille was a little bit less cool however because there's only one way to get there, so to get back we had to take the same road again. Even though the Tour cars could leave before all other cars (and two cars at the same time on both sides of the road!). While going down we picked up an Italian couple who came to several Tour stages by train and hitch hiking ... We took them down to the station in the valley.
    Once arrived in the valley it was 9PM already and our car was smoking: apparently it didn't really like going down the mountain in a traffic jam. Since I would take over the wheel from Christophe to drive to our hotel and since I wanted to eat something because our hotel was at almost 90 km, we decided to eat something there in Les Cabannes. We found a small restaurant with many people, much noise and not enough waitresses but they served us some really good pizzas! Since we were still wearing our Orange clothes of the Tour de France and we put our badges on the table, the people sitting next to us looked at us thinking - almost screaming it out loud ;-) - 'those are people working for the Tour de France'. Even though we saw that immediately, it took them at least 5 minutes before the woman dare to ask us ... With her accent I immediately knew she was Dutch so I answered her in Dutch ... Bad thing, because she then started to ask me all kinds of questions and Christophe almosted felt asleep because he didn't understand it at all ;-).
    Anyway, once we finished eating we went back to the car - which cooled down in the mean time - and since there was still a lot of traffic (the public now just started coming down from Plateau-de-Beille), Christophe proposed me - in collaboration with Tom Tom - an alternative route to our destination which according to him passed 'just a little bit on hilly roads, but it wouldn't be that much'. And indeed, this was part of the next day's stage's track and those were quite small roads with many hairpin curves. Very funny when it's dark outside, but fortunately Tom Tom very precisely indicated the different curves, so I knew exactly where they were! The funny thing was that there were many people with campers looking for a place to sleep to be at a good spot for the next day's stage (even though it was sometimes a little bit dangerous as well because some of them just decided to turn in the middle of the road without any lights and just after a hairpin)! When we finally arrived at our hotel it was already quite late, so we decided ... to go to bed!
    22 July 2007 - Mazamet > Plateau-de-Beille : the team of the Festina advertising caravan, toilet break and Denis Menchov at his arrival at Plateau-de-Beille

    > Watch all photos I took on the 22nd of July

    Monday 23 July, the Foix > Loudenvielle-le Louron stage

    This stage's track had been used for an amateur bicycle race one week before (called L'étape du Tour Mondovélo), so I started this day with the publication of an interview with two France Télécom colleagues who participated to this event (I interviewed them on Friday 20th).

    While I was writing that article, someone told me that we didn't have enough room in the Orange 'avant-course' cars so I had to choose between doing this stage 'hors course' (that is on an alternative road which connects the start city to the finish city) or find another solution to do the stage's track. I found the perfect solution with my nice friends at Škoda who let me go in their advertising caravan that day!

    I got in a new Škoda Fabia when their caravan passed in front of the Village Départ. Since this was all done a little bit in a hurry I only knew this car was green and was right behind the caravan's truck. I found the right car and a short stop allowed me to jump aboard.

    We had some great fun in this advertising caravan since they didn't only use the radio to warn for dangerous situations, cars passing the caravan or other logistical information, but also to tell some jokes and some other funny things! The 'chef caravane' explained that there were some traditions in that caravan such as for example that all guests had to sing a song ... I don't know whether that was true but I decided to play the game ... even though it was quite difficult to find a song to sing (it's not easy for a Dutch guy to think of a French song when you only hear 'moi je veux un bob Škoda' from the truck in front of you ;-) and finally I decided to sing the Dutch version of 'Father Jacob'!
    We talked about many other things and I learned one of the girls how to see 'good afternoon' to some Dutch people (it was easy to recognise them with their Dutch flag and dressed up in orange). Unfortunately she didn't understand their answer ;-).

    In the mean time I still found some time to share with the readers of the Orange dans le Tour blog some inside information of the Škoda advertising caravan such as a short video of Aurélie and Pierre-Alain giving out the 'bobs' .

    During this stage one of the spectators gave us a Basque flag which we put under the windscreen to show we were 'friends' so we didn't get bottles of water and other things thrown at us ;-)

    Once we arrived in Loudenvielle I of course filmed a short video of the Škoda choreography at the finish line and then we saw Alexandre Vinokourov who won the stage, but everyone now knows how that ended up ...

    Our hotel for that night and the other day (rest day) was the Chiberta & du Golf in Anglet, close to the sea. Since the other day would be a rest day, we of course went partying in Biarritz.
    23 July 2007 - Foix > Loudenvielle-le Louron : the Škoda advertising caravan
    > Watch all photos I took on the 23rd of July

    Tuesday 24 July, rest day

    Since we came back to our hotel quite late the other night, we spent the morning sleeping (also because we were too far from the permanence in Pau, so it was impossible to go see what happened there) and we went for lunch close to the sea in Café Bleu in Anglet. The afternoon we decided to occupy the swimming pool of our hotel, that was really cool as well!
    24 July 2007 - rest day: lunch in Anglet and Anglet s beach
    > Watch all photos I took on the 24th of July

    Wednesday 25 July, the Orthez > Gourette-Col d'Aubisque stage

    I spent this last Pyrenean stage in a France Télévisions car. Just after the start Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) escaped the pack, and formed a group with Vicente Garcia Acosta, Gorka Verdugo and Christophe Rinero which I filmed when they passed in front of us. Then we decided to drive a while behind them.
    Afterwards, we drove a while behind, in front and in between the different groups which existed during this stage and - using the height differences in the mountains - I was able to take some really cool pictures!
    At the end of the stage, the VIP cars were exceptionally located at some kilometers of the finish since there wouldn't have been enough space on the Col d'Aubisque for all the Tour cars.

    That night we went for dinner to a restaurant in Lourdes were - a few minutes before it was announced on TV - some Eurosport people (who also had dinner there) told us that the Rabobank team asked Michael Rasmussen to leave the Tour.
    25 July 2007 - Orthez > Gourette - Col d Aubisque : a day with France Télévisions - Barloworld, Rabobank, Sandy Casar, Christophe Moreau & Martin Elmiger
    > Watch all photos I took on the 25th of July

    Thursday 26 July, the Pau > Castelsarrasin stage

    The day started with a A.S.O. press conference in the Village Départ following the disappearance of the yellow jersey, and the exclusion of Alexandre Vinokourov and his team Astana a few days earlier. Eddy Seigneur who was live on RMC radio who did a live show from the Orange stand.
    A.S.O. explained that the disappearance of these riders was good for the sport and the Tour de France because they saw this as two liars leaving the Tour. On RMC radio after Eddy Seigner, Patrice Clerc criticised the UCI for the first time during the Tour by saying that they didn't do the right things to stop doping since 6 years.

    After the press conference I went to the team buses where many journalists crowded around the Rabobank bus. The riders clearly didn't like that the journalists only talked about doping ...
    Standing next to Bram Tankink I saw Filemon Wesselink who is famous on the Dutch TV. He was invited in the 'Avondetappe' show of the Dutch TV together with Jeroen Blijlevens, the old sprinter who won several Tour stages. That show was probably planned since a few weeks already, but it was quite strange to see Filemon there because with the situation in the Tour it was quite logical to link this to Filemon's show in which he tests different drugs on TV ...
    26 July 2007 - Pau > Castelsarrasin : A.S.O. press conference, Filemon Wesselink (BNN), Nicolas Portal (Caisse d Epargne) and some decoration in the Gers
    > Watch all photos I took on the 26th of July

    Friday 27 July, the Cahors > Angoulême stage

    After having interviewed Catherine of the French Ministry of Internal Affairs about the role of the Ministry in the Tour, I went to the signature session where the riders sign for the stage start at the 'podium signature'. During this session LCL - sponsor of the yellow jersey since 20 years - organises the 'opération casques' . During this event 9 young local riders get a helmet and Daniel Mangeas, the Tour de France's official speaker, chooses one of the professional riders who hands out these helmets. This event was organised by Pamela and she allowed me to be there and to write a blog post about it on the Orange dans le Tour blog.
    This stage was quite flat and a little boring after the mountain stages, but we saw some nice castles and other things ...
    27 July 2007 - Cahors > Angoulême : Juan-Antonio Flecha just after his signature, Mathieu Ladagnous handed out the helmets, the Valentré bridge in Cahors and some castles and other things
    > Watch all photos I took on the 27th of July

    Saturday 28 July, the Cognac > Angoulême time trial

    As I already explained for the Albi > Albi time trial this is always a little bit different then other stages since it takes the whole day and the biggest part of that day we stayed in the Village Départ.

    That day, the Village Départ's caricaturist came to see me and ask who I wanted him to make a caricature of. Since the whole Lampre Fondital team was at the Orange stand I asked him to do one of one of the riders of this team, Paolo Bossoni .

    Then A.S.O. organised a press conference to look back at this Tour and they asked me to assist to this press conference. In the beginning I was just outside the invitees only zone, but two A.S.O. employees let me in and gave me a perfect spot standing on a chair from where I could see and hear everything :-).
    During this press conference A.S.O. of course mentioned the different doping cases and more or less announced UCI's death ... A.S.O. also announced a new project to define new measures against doping which will be announced at the Tour de France 2008 presentation on October 25th.

    After the press conference I went to see the team buses where the different riders were warming up.
    At 2.30PM I had to be back at AG2R's bus because I would do this time trial in Julien Jurdie's car (he's the team manager), behind the team leader Christophe Moreau. While he was still wearing his blue-white-red French champion jersey when warming up, he started his time trial at 2.53PM in his normal AG2R jersey since Benoît Vaugrenard is the French champion of time trials.
    When we arrived in Angoulême (where we had some kind of a déjà-vu because the last 600 meters and the finish line were the same as the previous day's stage) it was quite exciting until the end, because in the end Alberto Contador only kept 23 seconds before Cadel Evans and 31 on Levi Leipheimer.
    28 July 2007 - Cognac > Angoulême : Paolo Bossoni s caricature, A.S.O. s press conference, Thomas Dekker and Bram Tankink warming up and Christophe Moreau s time trial encouraged by Julien Jurdie
    > Watch all photos I took on the 28th of July

    Sunday 29 July, the Marcoussis > Paris - Champs-Elysées stage

    After driving to Paris the night before, we were in a hotel at Porte de Clichy, so we took the cars to drive to Marcoussis quite early in the morning. On the motorway we passed two France Télévisions cars and - too late - I saw (in the mirror) that Laurent Jalabert was in one of the cars. The funny thing was that he came to see me in the Village Départ and said 'hey Thomas, I saw you in the car this morning' ... I thought it should have been me who would recognise him ;-)!
    After the rain was gone we left on the stage's track which connected Marcoussis to the last tour on the Champs Elysées in Paris in 146 kilometers (while it normally only takes 37). Our tour on the Champs Elysées of course was quite special, even though the spectators are not at all the same as for the other stages, the atmosphere is not the same: it's quite difficult to interact with the Parisian spectators, but I managed to get some of them to react!
    After our tour on the Champs we went to the VIP space and I went to the official stands since I managed to get two places on one of the stands for my father and my sister. They had a nice view from there and it was quite cool to see them again there!
    At the end of the stage I saw how some of the riders saw back their families after three weeks, such as Stéphane Goubert, the best French rider in the general ranking (like in the Vuelta by the way), on the picture below.

    That night there was a final party organised by A.S.O. in the Bodega at some kilometers from Paris. I also got invited for a party organised by the Caisse d'Epargne cycling team, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get there in time ... :-(
    29 July 2007 - Marcoussis > Paris - Champs-Elysées : our arrival in Paris, Orange in front of the Arc de Triomphe, the riders arrive at Place de la Concorde with Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) leading and Stéphane Goubert with his child
    > Watch all photos I took on the 29th of July

    Monday 30 July, it's really over now :-(

    On Monday 30th we emptied the cars and I took one of the Orange cars to go home. My father and sister were still there and when they left to go back to The Netherlands, I also left but to get the car back to the rental company ... my Tour de France 2007 adventure really stopped there!
    While going back home I almost fell asleep and when I layed down on my bed for a few minutes once at home I actually fell asleep to wake up only the other morning ... on Wednesday I went back to work and getting back to real life was quite difficult ;-) ...

    Now all I can do is wait for the Tour de France 2008 presentation on October 25th!

    < Check out the post about my third week on the Tour de France 2007
    < Check out the post about my second week on the Tour de France 2007
    < Check out the post about my first week on the Tour de France 2007

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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Comments

Currently 6 comments!
  1. salut Thomas ! bravo pour cette série d'articles et pour toutes les photos et vidéos du Tour ! merci également pour ta bonne humeur sur la caravane et à bientôt ! et n'oublie pas... "moi je veux un bob Skoda !"

    | Pierre-Alain | friday 28 September 2007 at 22:16:59

  2. salut Pierre-Alain !

    Merci pour ton commentaire :-). Très bientôt je publierai finalement les photos/vidéos de la journée que j'ai passé avec vous (tu as peut-être vu que je suis arrivé aux photos de la veille !) ...

    Merci aussi pour la super journée passé avec vous dans cette fameuse Fabia verte ;-) et ... donne-moi donc ce bob Škoda !! (non, en fait j'en ai déjà un !)

    à bientôt,
    Thomasss ... depuis les Pays-Basss (et oui, pas d'île paradisiaque pour mes vacances cette fois-ci ;-)

    | Thomas Vergouwen | saturday 29 September 2007 at 0:01:36

  3. salut thomas c'est florent "le fan du blog " ou plutot fan de 2 blog maintenant
    Merci encore de m'avoir fait rentré dans ce village départ
    je la fabia verte le jour du départ a foix j'ai meme une photo ou on doit voir pierre alain le chauffeur de la skod&a verte mais toi on ne te voit pas
    Il me tarde le 25 octobre pour la revelation du parcours 2008 ou j'éspere je te verai encore
    a+ bye

    | florent | saturday 29 September 2007 at 12:26:14

  4. Salut Florent,

    Ça fait plaisir de voir que tu es fan de 2 blogs maintenant :-).

    N'hésite pas à m'envoyer la photo que tu as de la Fabia verte ... je l'enverrai alors à Pierre-Alain pour voir s'il se reconnaît ;-).

    à bientôt !

    | Thomas Vergouwen | sunday 30 September 2007 at 13:44:30

  5. Bonjour !
    Ceci est comme une bouteille à la mer...
    Vous avez suivi le tour ... me donneriez des tuyaux... ?
    Je gère une petite association de récupération et vente de vêtement :
    Association "Retrouvailles".
    NotreMaster qui nous sert à tout... devient vieux...
    et il est tombé en panne vers le col du Granier ... où sont passés l'an dernier les coureurs...
    de là l'idée de trouver une voiture publicitaire de réforme...
    Pouivez-vous m'aider ?
    merci d'avance !!!
    Norbert navarro

    | navarro | monday 14 January 2013 at 17:07:46

  6. Bonjour Norbert,

    Malheureusement je ne vois pas comment je pourrais vous aider avec cela :-(.

    | Thomas Vergouwen | monday 14 January 2013 at 22:09:56

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