With no fewer than five excursions into foreign territories, this year’s Tour de France seems more like the Tour d’Europe. It kicked off in the Principality of Monaco before whizzing across southern France whence it heads into Spain. Things start favouring the maniacs who like cycling up mountains as it heads back up the Pyrenees into Andorra, before crossing France again and popping into Switzerland and Italy for a couple of stages, just for good measure. The guys are going to have to change money – Switzerland doesn’t do Euros. Due to the overall distances covered, It also seems quite a disjoint route with many transfers using trains and planes between finish and start points.
Be that as it may, with the added spice of the return of Lance Armstrong, it’s been a very exciting first few days. Watching live TV coverage of the tour for several hours a day is largely about regular doses of stunning French scenery to sate the desire to be in France oneself but, being quite keen on cycling myself, I do like watching the professionals at work. Having already given me a good injection of Provence, yesterday’s team time trial, the first I’ve seen, was particularly nail-biting and spun us through some very pleasant scenery in one of my favourite areas, the Languedoc. [Note for the future: Montpellier looks worth a visit.]
The team time trial was sandwiched between two very long flat stages of 196 kms/122 mls. I can’t help but wonder at the ability to cycle such distances day after day at average speeds I can only dream of, subsequently to finish at sprinting speeds that I certainly cannot dream of, even going downhill with a following wind.
With what is currently effectively a dead-heat for the yellow jersey, one featuring that man Armstrong, I wait with bated breath for today’s 196 kms of stunning scenery towards Perpignan.