After the competition finished in Annecy, we had plans to go with Dave and Kathryn to see the Tour de France. Dave is a big fan and he knew the best place to go see it in person. Mt. Ventoux is the longest climb they do during the race and if you go near the end of the climb, the riders are fatigued and slow enough that you get to see them for more than just a split second speeding by. Dave has seen the Tour in person before and his goal was to run alongside the top hill climbers for a couple hundred meters getting it all on his GoPro, AND to get on TV doing it.
We spent the night before in the town of Orange down in the flats and then drove up the next morning to get a good spot before the riders came through around 4 or 5pm. Although you can't drive all the way up there, we were able to drive around the backside of the mountain and get within about 6km of the top. The rest was just a nice hike on a French mountain (with 2.3 million other people, as Mart pointed out to us).
We arrived about 4 hours early, so there was plenty of time for picnicing and napping and most important, jockying for the best position. For about the last 2km of the race there are barriers to keep the spectators out of the way of the cyclists. But, below that, it's anyone's game and it's really just a wonder that more people don't disrupt the race. Although plenty of people are probably a nuisance to the riders, it's surprising that more crazy people don't just jump in front of it all and cause a lot of chaos.
Dave's strategy for getting the attention of the cameras was (1) look as dorky as possible in a purple and blue metalic wig and no shirt; (2) choose a spot that was steep enough that they were going slow enough to keep up running along side them; and (3) choose a place between cops so that he could run without being arrested ;-).
Once that was all squared away, it was just a matter of sitting back and enjoying the parade while the competitors worked their way up the 20km front of Mt. Ventoux.
To say Dave's endeavor was a success is an understatement! Within minutes, friends were texting, tweeting and Facebooking Dave that he was on ALL the tv channels. By pure luck or plan, I don't know, Dave managed to get beside the leader Fromme at the key moment when came out of the saddle to make the break 1.1 km from the finish line. Every major news channel in the world aired the footage of Dave running alongside Fromme over and over again. Even days later, they were airing that same video in highlights of the previous racing days. There's a video coming next post that brought tears to my eyes from laughing so hard!
Meanwhile, here are a few shots of the cyclist finishing up the last 2 km of the stage. It amazes me how close I could stay to them as they passed by. It was super exciting!