Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tour de France - Stage 7 - Rennes

One of the things that we definitely wanted to do on this trip this year was to see some of the Tour de France. The second weekend of the tour gave us the opportunity to see two stages without doing too much driving around.

On Friday afternoon we flew into Paris and met Jonathan at the airport, he had already caught the Eurostar to Paris on Thursday and spent the day looking around. We picked up a car and set out west towards the Bretagne region. After negotiating the Paris ring roads, belting rain, flooded roads and Parisian drivers, we ended up on the A11. Driving in France is not a bad experience. The main motorways (Autoroutes) are well maintained and the speed limit of 130km/h is not unwelcome. We drove west for 3 hours until we found our first night's accommodation in Laval.

On Saturday morning we drove into Rennes, the town where Stage 8 finishes. Stage 8 is an individual time trial that starts in a little town called St Gregoire four kilometres to the north of Rennes. Rennes is not a huge town, but with all the road closures we had a bit of trouble finding our way to St Gregoire. Once there though, we were greeted by a little town that had been completely taken over by team buses, corporate areas and the race. The sleepy little town had awoken to a mass of people and a carnival like atmosphere. Fortunately the team busses were strung out along a narrow road in the town - so even though we didn't have passes to get into the team area, we were close to the mechanics and team busses.

We hung around and watched a few of the starts before making our way along the route back to the car. It is just an amazing sight to see the riders winding up their gears and settling down into a rythem that they are going to maintain for the next hour. They really are machines. On the way Jonathan found a stall that sold local sausages wrapped in a crepe. They were really tasty and we finished off a few of them for lunch.

We drove back into Rennes to find the finish line. Luckily we were able to park right at the 400m mark from the finish line. The crowds on the edge of the barriers were generally four to five people deep. We walked around and watched a few riders come up the finishing straight before heading down towards the media finish area. As soon as each rider crossed the finish line they were mobbed by media. Photographers and reporters shoved each other to get photographs and shove microphones into faces. A lot of the riders aren't too interested in talking to the media after the stage, especially if they posted a bad time. These ones would just ride straight through the media without stopping - this included some of the big names - Landis, Hushovd, Evans.

Results for the day: Serhiy Honchar won the time-trial stage and took the Malliot Jaune. Robbie McEwan kept his Malliot Vert. We watched the presentations. Robbie McEwan didn't want to talk to the media today and after receiving his jersey he weaved off through the crowd and was picked up by his waiting car.

And then it was over. As soon as the last official stepped off the podium, the cranes had already removed the finish banner and the barriers were being picked up by a truck. Hundreds of tour roadies streamed out of somewhere and each got to work on their specific job like a pack of worker ants. Everything was torn down within the hour and packed up into the waiting trucks, ready to roll out to the next town that the Tour de France tornado would blow into. As for us we walked back to the car and set off to find our nights accommodation.

Click on the picture to see more.
TdF 2006 Stage 8 - Rennes
Jul 8, 2006 - 28 Photos

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