Not long after France's Tony Gallopin added a dramatic stage victory today to his day in Yellow on Monday, the "Bravo Gallopin" signs were already going up on the next day's route. I came upon a gentleman in Neuville-les-Dames, nine miles into the route, putting the finishing touches to such a sign on a decorated bike stationed at a corner in the town less than two hours after he had held off the fast charging peloton by one second after boldly attacking on the final climb of the stage less than thee miles from the finish. If a day in Yellow hadn't fully made this twenty-six year old a national hero, his first Tour stage win certainly has.
I wasn't there at the finish to hear the crowd erupt in joy, as I pushed on after reaching the finish line at two p.m. With a thirty-five mile jump to the next day's start in Bourg-en-Bresse, if I had waited until the stage finish to continue riding, I would have barely made it there by dark through the hilly terrain. It would have been an eventful thirty-five miles accompanied by the hundreds of vehicles that comprise The Tour entourage--team buses and cars, official vehicles and all the fans in their campers--but also a very hectic one. I was able to make the ride in relative calm while The Race was going full tilt and luckless Talansky, nursing his injuries, was off the back, struggling to make the time cut, which he narrowly did.
When I arrived at the finish the Big Screen had yet to start giving Race coverage, still devoted to the show of features about the Ville Départ and the surrounding area that precedes The Race and overlaps its first hour or so. But the distribution of goodies to the hundreds already lining the barriers the final five hundred meters to the finish was in full swing. A padded mitt for handling hot pots and pans came flying through the air and landed at my feet. Its about the last thing I need, but I couldn't help but grab it, even though it didn't have a Tour emblem on it or anything that made it a Tour souvenir other than my word for it. Everyone was being handed a Credit Lyonnaise yellow hat, something people needed today.
A sampler of some of the giveaways that I have not consumed or redistributed.
Though it is always hard to tear myself away from the Big Screen, it isn't so hard to resume riding. The Buddhists say that when one reaches the summit of a mountain to keeping climbing. Velocio no doubt said somewhere when one reaches the end of a stage to keep riding. It would especially be so in French, as the literal translation for the French word "Ètape" is not "stage," but rather "part of a journey." That certainly sums up The Tour de France, and my efforts to follow it.
The final roundabout the peloton passed when it turned down the mile-long straightaway to the finish was adorned with a magnificent globe of bicycles.
"L'Equipe" a few days ago reported there are 446 roundabouts in this year's Tour, of the 30,000 or so that saturate the country. It did not have a figure of how many of them had a bicycle theme. I can attest that a great many of them do. The most popular is a yellow bike of some sort.
Some though offer a genuine artistic interpretation of the bike or its components, such as these wicker saddles amongst a robust array of flowers.
Random bikes of a unique design turn up.
Communities are constantly trying to outdo one another with gargantuan bikes, in and the out of roundabouts.
The Tour's 446 roundabouts may seem like a lot, and it is, probably more than are in the entire United States, but it amounts to only twenty-two per stage, or one every six miles. The roundabouts though aren't marked on the official course itinerary, just each intersection where the peloton makes a turn and the climbs and also railroad crossings, maybe to let riders know where they might be able to catch a train if they wish to abandon, as in the legendary photo of Tour winner and climber extraordinaire Bahamontes, looking forlorn, sitting on his suitcase waiting for a train after quitting The Race.
The course log ought to also also designate cemeteries so everyone knows where they can get water. Today was the first truly hot day where I was in need of cold water not only to pour down my throat but to pour over my head. It was also the first day where I was happy topsoil my jersey and let it dry on my back. It ought to be a prerequisite of The Tour route to pass a cemetery at least once every twenty-five miles. During one long stretch today without a cemetery, I stopped at a garage to fill my bottles. I also filled a bottle at a bar where I stopped looking for a television. The bar tap water always comes out super-frigid, another of the joys of touring France. Ice may be in short supply, but one doesn't need ice with such arctic fluid.
I made certain I camped well away from any Tour followers parked along the road, as the night before I camped near a camping van, as they are called, shielded from it by a row of trees in a meadow. It was virtual dark when I stopped and they had already turned in. During the night twice I was awoken by jokers driving by tooting their horn at the sleeping Tour followers. Someone else was parked a little further down the road, as I could hear their sleep being interrupted too.