I used to have a job with a travel schedule a single man would love. I almost always went to very nice places most of which were international. It was fun to be able to do my christmas shopping in Switzerland, Germany, Japan and France all in the same year. Unfortunately, it was a very hard travel schedule to keep with a family. One day Katie was asked who lives at the airport? with the expected answer being airplanes, but Katie answered Daddy. That was the day I knew I needed to do something to reduce my travel. Now I have a nice new job with a family-friendly travel schedule, but I have to say — I miss Paris. The last project I worked on before switching jobs was in Paris so I traveled there frequently. One of my more conveniently timed trips put me in Paris for the final stage of Le Tour de France last year. The following is the e-mail and pictures I sent from Paris last year.
As luck (and a little clever planning) would have it I am in Paris on business this week and was able catch stage 21 of the tour. I arrived at CDG about 7 am on Sunday morning and made my way to the hotel with hopes of a quick shower and change of clothes before heading over to the Champs Elysees. Unfortunately, my hotel Le Meridian Etoile seemed to be race headquarters with many of the team and tour trucks already parked out front. The lobby was full of people wearing special access passes. I checked in, but was told I needed to wait an hour for my room to be ready so I went and sat down in the lobby. I chatted with a woman who sold merchandise for Davitmon-Lotto and a photographer from pezcycling.com while waiting, but had no luck getting a room. At 10:00 am I decided I would just leave my bag with the bellman and head over. The hotel was about a 5 minute walk from Arc de Triumph and Champs Elysees.
It had rained heavily while I was at the hotel and continued to alternate between overcast, mist and drizzle until the very end of the race when the sun finally came out. The early rain had kept the crowds away, but spaces along the fence were starting to become sparse. I stopped to get some water, pastries, and a sandwich and then found a spot on the fence at about 11:00am. Over the next 5 hours I got to know numerous Americans, a few Brits and an nice old Belgian man. Overall, I think the Americans were the large majority. I have never seen so many Americans in Paris.
About 45 minutes before the race the caravan rolled through. This is really just a large rolling advertisement. During most stages they throw candy and other junk including the thunder sticks you see on TV. I could tell when the riders were about to arrive when I started seeing the helicopter overhead, but I really had no idea what was going on because the call is in French only. We luckily got occasional translation from the Belgian, but all we really heard was a rumor that there was a discovery crash.
The Champs Elysees is probably the best place to watch the race because the riders end up passing by 8 times and then after the race all the teams do a victory lap. It is really amazing when they arrive. I won’t get into race coverage but suffice to say the peloton is bigger than I expected and the race is faster than I would have thought.
I didn’t make it to see the podium, but could hear the French announcements. The crowd went crazy every time they mentioned Lance and hearing all the Americans singing the national anthem on Champs Elysees was pretty amazing. I made the mistake (as you will see in the photos) of giving up my place on the fence between the race and the victory ride, but if I stayed in the same place any longer I would have fallen asleep. After the victory ride I made my way back to the hotel.
As soon as I rounded the corner to get to the hotel I realized the circus from the morning had multiplied. All the team trucks were open, the team cars were unloading and cyclist riding up and dropping off their bikes. Not to mention all the groupies. The trucks were each like a candy story, full of more bikes and gear than you could imagine. Inside my hotel the lobby was so full of people I could barely get through to get my key. On the way I literally bumped into George Hincapie and his wife and then stood behind Novial and Beltran while waiting for my key. Security was pretty tight getting to the rooms. I had to have a key to get anywhere inside the hotel. After a shower and a change of clothes I went for dinner. On the way down I ran into many cyclist and their girlfriends all dressed up and ready to party. You can tell the Italians before you even hear them speak, the guys are very trendy and the girls very skimpy. In the lobby I saw Johan Bruyneel with some of the discovery team. Lance, from what I gather was in another hotel.
At breakfast the next morning, the crowd was gone, but the hotel was still full of cyclist including Levi Leipheimer and Hincapie. On the way out Hincapie was blocking the exit, I squeezed by and commented “Good Work” to which he very politely said “thank you.” Now, there are a few cyclists left, but most are gone.