This week we had our first visitor from the US, Steve, a friend of Jim’s from college. He’d spent a good portion of the week wandering around Toulouse and watching soccer, but on Thursday he planned a trip up to Montauban to catch the finish of Stage 6 of the Tour de France, and I got to tag along!
Luckily, we could take the train from Toulouse up to Montauban (only about a 25-30 minute ride, non-stop if you’re lucky). When we arrived in Montauban we were a little concerned we’d gotten off at the wrong place as it seemed a little desolate, not like a giant party was going on. Regardless, we starting walking toward city center. Once we crossed the Tarn river, we heard music and announcers – aha! As such, we turned left and followed the noise.
Finally, after about 7,000 steps, we found ourselves at a corner (not quite the finish). We bought a couple waters and started to determine where we’d hang out for the race. It should be mentioned it was a clear day (hardly a cloud in sight) and probably 88 degrees. Not surprisingly, we were hoping for a shaded spot.
First, we walked to our right (which we later learned was the opposite direction of the finish line), then turned around and marched toward the finish line. We walked as far as we could until we were met with a barricade for VIPs only. That means unless you’re a VIP you will not be getting close to the actual finish line. Oh well. Now we know. I’m going to guess we arrived close to 3pm, but the cyclists wouldn’t be arriving/crossing the finish line until about 5:30pm. So, we had some time to kill. As such, we went back to a shaded area next to some food and a jumbo-tron (see photo below). We lounged in the shade for maybe an hour or so before finding a spot to watch the race. Funny thing – while we were sitting, I saw one of Jim’s coworkers (Dan) getting a hotdog at the concession stand in front of us (he’s in the orange cycle gear below). We chatted with him for a bit – he’d ridden up from Toulouse to see the finish.
When it got to be a little past 5, we decided to start making our way back toward the bridge to find a spot to watch the race, along the roadway. As we walked we found an area that wasn’t shaded, but was completely open, so we nabbed it. After waiting about 10-15 minutes, we started to see the motorcycles, then cars rush past. Then came all the cyclists (see below).
It all happened so fast, but was a bit of a rush. As the motorcycles and automobiles came, everyone started pounding their hands on the signs keeping them off the road and cheering. Then, they all flew by. I tried to take so many photos, but many ended up being just blank road aside from the four above. I also got a good video (couldn’t post it here). There was the first drove then a few seconds later a second drove. Then all of the cars with bikes on top came.
I don’t know a ton about cycling (I know more today than I did on Wednesday), but I’m really glad we went up there. It’s fun to enjoy French culture with other French folks.
After the race was over – we high tailed it back to the train station. We had a bit of a hiccup with our train getting cancelled (supprimer), but we managed to make it home in time to watch the German/French Euro 2016 soccer game. I’m happy to report our host country won and is now headed to the finals against Portugal. Viva la France!