I saw the Tour de France!

It was kind of hard to miss the reminders...

It was kind of hard not to miss the reminders…

This weekend has been an active sports one. In most years, I would be interested/excited about the Wimbledon finals. But due to the quadrennial party taking place in Brazil now, my sporting interest has been diverted. Friday night (July 4) represented another Brazil match and the victory over Colombia meant another party-like atmosphere at the Faverhsam after the final whistle. But with Neymar out, there may not be any dancing after 90 (or 120) minutes on Tuesday night.

The show that came to town

The show that came to town

However, the most exciting sporting event in my world this weekend isn’t taking place in London or samba country. The Tour de France is starting in England this year (despite its name, the event often starts in neighboring countries) and better yet, the party started in Leeds. Not surprisingly, Tour de France banners were plastered all over the city centre and the city organized all sorts of events to welcome the arrival of the world’s biggest bicycle race.

I’m not a huge fan of the Tour de France – probably because I really have no idea how it works. If this year’s event had started in Manchester, I wouldn’t have felt like going there  – probably because I wouldn’t have known about it. But it’s not every day that Leeds is the centre of the sporting universe – or more appropriately, the French sporting universe. Anyway…

One of the first participants in the parade

One of the first participants in the parade

The party started two days before le grand départ with a parade/opening ceremony. There was no way in hell I was paying for opening ceremony tickets but the parade would seemingly be interesting – probably because I had no idea what it would actually entail. Anyway, I went with my coursemate Trish and we were promptly entertained by…

I’m not sure what. During the parade, the teams and riders cycled down the street toward Millennium Square, where they were acknowledged by a big crowd. Nice but there were seemingly dead periods of five-to-ten minutes before the arrival of the next team. Each team had roughly ten riders and after the entrance of each one, we (the spectators) endured the very enjoyable task of waiting and waiting….

For Chris Froome’s Team Sky – Chris Froome being the victor of last year’s Tour de France. Trish was quite excited about the possibility of seeing Mr. Froome but after none of the first several teams was Team Sky, it dawned on me that Team Sky would be the last one to make its grand entrance. Sure enough, that was the case.

Not exactly sure who this group is...

Not exactly sure who this group is…

This team has nice jerseys

This team has nice jerseys

I saw these cars that same day before the parade

I saw these cars that same day before the parade

Not the clearest shot of Team Sky

Not the clearest shot of Team Sky

Although much of the next day was spent exploring the Tour de France-related sights in the city centre (Actually, the Yorkshire Bicycle Show was being held in the Town Hall and while seemingly interesting, there was no way in hell I was paying the £5 entrance fee), the real fun took place yesterday (Saturday, July 5). I had a vague idea of the race’s starting time when I claimed a spot on Eastgate (a street in the city centre) around nine a.m. Of course, lots of other people shared the same brilliant idea but I had a good view of…

During the parade of sponsors...

During the parade of sponsors…

Another parade. This one featuring the event’s sponsors. A procession of cars bearing corporate logos hit the streets and some folks siting on top of those cars/vans showered spectators with goodies. Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything 😦 But some of the cars looked nice.

I love the colors on this car..

I love the colors on this car..

This Carrefour car looks nice also...

This Carrefour car looks nice also…

As evidenced by the pictures above, I was in a good position to catch the action. However, fun moments are best enjoyed with others. So as planned, I met up with Nishant and others and I went from being in a good picture-taking position to… Well, look at this:

This was my view for quite a long time...

This was my view for quite a long time…

That was the Headrow (a major street in Leeds) where I mostly saw the back of other people’s heads. I was in front of the city’s main library, which may have been the starting point. However, I was relegated to watching the spectacle on a big screen for quite awhile – where I mostly saw the introduction of the main cyclists.

I don't envy these spectators...

I don’t envy these spectators…

Immediately after the start of the race, my bud Marcus suggested heading down to the train station to go to Harrogate for the finish of the first stage. While being with roughly 230,000 close friends was fun, getting more breathing room sounded even better…

The queue at the train station

The queue at the train station

Except that all of Leeds had the same idea, causing a ridiculously long queue at the train station. Fortunately, Marcus and I (Nishant, Lana and Emma cycled to Harrogate) arrived relatively at the train station early, so we weren’t waiting too long for the train to Harrogate…

Long queues for food...

Long queues for food…

Where I spent a lot of time in Harrogate

Where I spent a lot of time in Harrogate

Where I said to myself, “I went to the Tour de France and a rock festival broke out.” A fan park was organized for spectators to watch the race and munch on overpriced meals at food stands. And there was the customary stage featuring an MC and TV screen.

A relaxing way of watching the race...

A relaxing way of watching the race…

This was a nice place to take a nap...

This was a nice place to take a nap…

Stands were set up near the finish line but there was no way we would get seats there. Since there was no space to stand on the street for the last several meters leading up to the finish line, all of us were just content to watch ITV’s broadcast on the big screen while lying on the grass. While the opening stage is really meaningless in regards to who wins the whole thing, the finish was exciting – if a crash toward the end can be described as exciting.

But it was an unforgettable end to my Tour de France.

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2 Comments

  1. How cool that you were able to experience the Tour de France in person! It looks like you had a blast!!

    • Yeah 🙂 The weird thing is that…. although I love sports, seeing the Tour de France has never been on my bucket list. But I’m just fortunate enough to be living in the city where it started this year and it was so fun seeing Leeds get amped about the Tour. I would love to experience it again 🙂

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