SEMUR en Auxois has spent weeks, if not months, preparing for its biggest moment of the year; the arrival of the Tour de France in this mediaeval town in the middle of Burgundy.
Every time we have recently visited the town something has been painted, cleaned, or flags erected, while road works have caused diversions, and souvenirs have been on sale.
So it was only natural that when the Tour is set to almost pass your front door you want to experience the fever that surrounds it.
Semur en Auxois is just ten minutes from our home so we arrived in the town just before 10am where it was already heaving with eager race enthusiasts as well as local people welcoming the race and excited to see their idols in person.
With the roads closed to traffic, we were ushered to a parking area, where I showed my disabled parking badge and we were directed to a space in a shady, convenient area; the shade being important as the temperatures hit around 30 degrees.
Finding a good vantage point it was a long wait until the cavalcade of promotional vehicles started their way down the road in front of us. First came vehicles of all shapes and sizes advertising the companies, which sponsor the teams distributing gifts to the expectant crowds. Hats, giant hands to wave, cheeses, wristbands, as well as a drinks company which showered everyone with sprays of water.
Behind the advertising convoy came the part everyone had been waiting to see; the team cars and buses. Inside the buses, everyone knew were the competitors.
Suddenly the television and news crews were swarming everywhere eager for interviews. News presenters and photographers worldwide had descended upon this small town in the Cote d’Or. The gendarmes tried their hardest to keep people behind the barricades without much success.
Opposite us the ag2r bus parked and quickly it was cordoned off with poles and red and white tape. People sporting passes were ducking and diving to get close to the cyclists as they appeared from their buses and those who were tipped to be the hottest contenders were flanked by burly guards. Oh to be such hot property.
As we waited cyclists passed us as they made their way to the starting point, people not heeding the gendarmes advice to clear away from the road found the cyclists paid them little regard and a few were knocked to one side or ended up with sore toes.
Slowly we made our way to find a point from where we would be able to see the riders start on their way to Bourg-en-Bresse. We took our places on a grassy bank just after a sharp turn in the road which goes under the main road and in the direction of Pouilly-en-Auxois.
This section of road had been resurfaced in the last few weeks as part of the preparations. At any time the road takes unsuspecting drivers by surprise as the turn is exceptionally sharp, and watching the riders hurtle round the corner at amazing speed we were not surprised to see a few caught out but the sharpness of the bend. As they sped past on the 200km or so leg, the sun shone brightly on the myriad of colours worn by the teams, as a virtual rainbow flashed before our eyes.
The sheer power of these athletes should not be forgotten amongst the circus that surrounds the Tour de France. However much we enjoyed watching the spectacle we must not forget what the race means to those taking part and the torture some of them put themselves through.
The injuries we witnessed on some of the riders were testimony to that. They are competitors and their competitive spirit is to be admired as I am sure that many of those watching and cheering by the road sides or on television would not be able to change places with anyone of them.
For more photographs see Coral's set on Flickr.
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