I recently took a trip to Paris with my girlfriend – and monsieur camera. The trip was timed to coincide with the final stage of the 100th Tour de France, specially scheduled for a dusk finish to add drama to the occasion. The last stage of every modern Tour de France has taken the cyclists from a suburb of Paris – Versailles in the 2013 edition – to the centre of Paris where they perform ten circuits up and down the Champs Elysees before ending with a sprint finish.
We took up a great position near the Arc de Triomphe and awaited the arrival of the cyclists. I’d been avidly following the race for the preceding three weeks so I was particularly excited to catch my first glimpse of the peloton. After several hours of various sponsors’ floats and vehicles going past the arrival of the competitors onto the Champs Elysees was greeted with a flypast from the Patrouille de France (their version of the Red Arrows). It was a great way to signal the start of the main event.
About 10 minutes later we caught our first glimpse of the peloton – Chris Froome in the leader’s yellow jersey was at the front with his Team Sky cohorts. A couple more circuits went by and a breakaway was beginning to establish itself led by the Scottish cyclist David Millar. These breakaways are almost always in vain and serve mainly to give the team’s sponsor some airtime on the TV coverage. Occasionally they manage to keep clear of the main field and throw up a surprise winner, sadly not the case in this instance.
The peloton passes the Arc de Triomphe
At the final sprint Cavendish was well beated by the new sprint phenomenon Marcel Kittel and then Froome rolled in, yellow jersey still intact, with his team mates, the overall winner of the Tour.
An almost interminably long presentation ceremony followed featuring a light show where the Arc de Triomphe was illuminated to reflect the various jersey being awarded.
We eventually slunk off to a bar to give our feet a rest. My appetite for the Tour was well sated and I’m already looking forward to next year when it’s due to start in Yorkshire and pass through London. Wonderful stuff.
The remainder of our 2-night, 3-day stay in the city was taken up with the regular touristy sightseeing activities. We popped to Pere Lachaise cemetery…
…and went to see the Eiffel Tower. It looked fantastic at night…
We made our way back to London on the Eurostar with weary legs, tanned skin and the taste of some particularly potent cheeses still on our tastebuds.