Heroes of the Tour de France

Yes, I went, and you know what: It was great. Despite the 210 km distance to be covered in the car, despite the scorching heat, despite everything that can rightfully be criticized about the TdF. Actually, an esteemed Dutch co-member of the CR list, when I asked if we couldn´t meet there, told me that he preferred to keep a sober distance to the whole circus, and nearly made me reconsider, but then my son, a French exchange student he met at university and another esteemed Dutch co-member of the CR list decided to stick with our plans, and so we went. The plan was to meet a friend and to leave the car at a P&R parking about 35km from Utrecht city centre, to cycle there and them to enjoy the games. As there were three of us in the car, we managed perfectly with stowing the bikes, some necessary luggage and ourselves. It´s all been tried and tested, and the by now very nearly 24-year-old Volvo always takes loads like this in its stride.

Back to the TdF. It was so great because the Dutch people made a huge cycling feast out of the whole thing. There were 4.200 volunteers around to help at every corner, literally, with the Dutch actually creating the word tourmaker to make them stand out. They certainly were heroes, if only because of braving the weather.

Uherobag

UbidonThe special feeder bottles were on sale, too, but had sold out, of course, when we asked.

Uhero2The Tourmakers had their own system of supplies being taken round.

Uhero1

Besides, there also were thousands of regular police and paramedics, but they very much kept to the background.

OTOH, Utrecht had been more or less closed down for days, especially at the TdF route, which must have been quite a nuisance for the neighbours, but they didn´t let the fans feel it. More heroes.

UbordUhouse Uhouses

When we arrived the caravane was already in full swing.

Ucaravan1 Ucaravan5 Ucaravan4 Ucaravan3 Ucaravan2

Shortly after, there were some trial rides by a few riders, and then business started in earnest.

UTTfirstEvery racer was heralded by two motorcycle outriders, and my guess is that riding a motorbike in 40 deg cent. in your full uniform can´t be much of a pleasure.

There must be some sort of hierarchy among racing teams, or possibly even single racers of a team, as there were some competitors who were followed by cars with only a one measly spare bike on the roof rack,

UTTonebikesome had two or three,

UTTfullbut others really wanted to show that they didn´t see any necessity in saving bikes.

UTTburstUTTmorebikesUtrialFunnily enough, every rider only rode one bike at a time. Maybe being filmed from a helicpter was a consolation.

Uheli

In the meantime, there was another hero: An elderly gentleman who actually brought his Ko Zieleman bike, locked it to a signpost, and left. The bike was still there when we decided to return to the car.

UZielembb UZielemtt UZielemseatcl UZielemfull UZielemfrontSadly the frame had been powdercoated at some date, and the coater had not seen any necessity in saving powder.

But to my mind the real heroes of the day were those Utrecht inhabitants who opened their water taps, or even sprayed passers-by with water.

Uhero3Uherovict

My guess is that they prevented about a dozen heat strokes per hour. I certainly made good use of being showered and to have free feeder bottle refills. (A half liter plastic bottle of cheap mineral water was three Euros on average at the food stalls, and half a liter didn´t last long.)

More heroes: The bicycle orchestra who actually tried to beat the ubiquitous chaos on the cycle paths – first the chaos,

UArrivalUbikeparkUcrowdUDutchcycle1 UDutchcycle4

Uhero5 UDutchcycle2

 

then the orchestra.

Uorcvhname

Uorchcell Uorchtandbak Uorchrearhub Uorchfull UorchcellsolarpAll the instruments were either loaded onto or even integral parts of Dutch bakfietsen, transport bikes. The electronic cello is fed electricity by a solar panel on a trailer on the bakfiets.

Back to the cycle racing. On the other side of th eriver from where we stayed, jealously guarding our half tree´s worth of shade, there were hundreds of spectators assembled in a small park. They looked so unbelievably orderly in their neat rows

Uspectorderlywhile trying to catch a glimpse of the time trial taking part on the other side of the river. Cheering rose to quite a noise level, however, whenever a Dutch rider or one of the greats emerged from the tunnel.

UspectorderteamcarUspectordercyclist

 

 

Who won? Didn´t care, it was so hot.

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3 Comments

  1. Billy Ketchum
    Posted July 7, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    “Happiness depends on complicated decencies from a lot of people you’ll never know” 1980s Chicago based Ska band Heavy Manners. Thanks for the great report and pics and for noticing the many small acts of competence and kindness. Billy Ketchum, Chicago.

  2. Posted July 7, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great report! Thank you Toni!!!!

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