The start of the madness that is La Caravanne – an hour or so before Le Tour passes through
Then something unexpected: Thomas Voeckler punctured right in front of us. The Europcar team car pulled up behind him and performed the fastest wheel change I’ve ever seen. A sling-shot later and Thomas was back chasing down the peloton.
And to top it all, the Team Sky Jag beeped a hello at the random English people going bonkers at the sight of the only team cars with British plates. Not just a normal car horn, but one of those ridiculous ones you hear on the Tour. In a Jag. Excellent.
Off to Bergerac the riders went, to crash spectacularly near the finish, as is their wont. Just another day at the office for the cyclists and all was well for the following day’s time-trial.
Next day, for Stage 20, Bergerac to Périgueux, we drove on tiny roads cross-country to meet up with the time-trial course north of Bergerac. On the smallest road imaginable, in the middle of absolutely nowhere we nearly collided with a bright yellow juggernaut: the Saxo Tinkoff team lorry to be precise. What it was doing there (and if it even managed to find its way out) I have no idea. Anyway, we pressed on into rural Dordogne and came upon the small village of Maurens. No-one about other than some Dutch people. Follow the Dutch people! Sure enough, a couple of kilometres down a hill we found hundreds of other mad people waiting for the time-trial.
Unlike our soaking at Armillac, we got a sunny view of every single rider as they came past 2 minutes apart with motorcycle riders and team car. Everyone left in the race went past us, one after the other, including the stage winner, Tony Martin (accompanied by a helicopter of course) and all the jersey-wearers: Nibali (Yellow GC winner), Sagan (Green Sprint), Majka (Polka-dot King of the Mountains) and Pinot (White Best Young Rider). So exciting.
We spent hours getting sun-burnt in proper English style, shouting encouragement to anyone and everyone and eating baguettes and Orangina. Clichés well and truly dispatched, we collapsed, exhausted with smiles on our faces. The riders processed into Paris for the final stage the next day, but for us, the previous two days had been exceptionally exciting.
We can’t wait for next year. For now, we’ll just keep randomly shouting, “Allez, allez, allez!” at passers-by.