Bicycling Shus: Tour De France

In the past few years I have become really obsessed with bicycles, but to be honest, the Tour De France and professional cycling hasn't been a big interest. I would watch occasional highlights on TV for major races and YouTube the "Best of" whatever in pro-cycling (usually crash compilations or hair-raising mountain descents). No one I know watches an entire race on TV unless they are a fan and have a favourite team or rider.

This year, we were lucky to be living here in the Netherlands when the Tour De France began here. The first two stages originated in Utrecht, only 50 minutes by train from where we live in Haarlem.

STAGE 1: Utrecht Time Trial

We left Utrecht Centraal Station and wandered around somewhat disoriented as the city looked completely different from our previous visits. There were tens of thousands of people on the streets and it was a scorching hot day. We eventually found a spot to settle in and watched the blurred lines of each individual cyclist whiz by solo in the opening time trial of the Tour De France.

An insanely beautiful hot, blue-skied day in Utrecht, perfect for our first ever TDF experience! We took a train from Haarlem to Utrecht and the atmosphere as soon as exiting the Centraal Station was amazing! A great experience even for non-cycling fanatics! 

An insanely beautiful hot, blue-skied day in Utrecht, perfect for our first ever TDF experience! We took a train from Haarlem to Utrecht and the atmosphere as soon as exiting the Centraal Station was amazing! A great experience even for non-cycling fanatics! 

The crowd was a lot of fun even though time trials are potentially the most boring thing to watch with just one rider going by at a time. We really enjoyed talking to some locals and cheering on the riders near the finish line.

The crowd was a lot of fun even though time trials are potentially the most boring thing to watch with just one rider going by at a time. We really enjoyed talking to some locals and cheering on the riders near the finish line.

The crowds along the wall made lots of noise! it was really fun, but looked like a lot of work for the pro cyclists in the heat of the day. That woman with the umbrella has the right idea!

The crowds along the wall made lots of noise! it was really fun, but looked like a lot of work for the pro cyclists in the heat of the day. That woman with the umbrella has the right idea!

Not easy...

Not easy...

A summary of the day in one photo: time-trial cyclists, umbrellas for shade, beer and photos. A great day in Utrecht!

A summary of the day in one photo: time-trial cyclists, umbrellas for shade, beer and photos. A great day in Utrecht!

A great day in Utrecht, Netherlands for the first stage of the Tour De France! Our first ever TDF! It was a hot day,...

Posted by The Travelling Shus on Saturday, July 4, 2015

 

STAGE 2: Utrecht to Zeeland

For the second stage of the 2015 Tour De France, the riders departed from Utrecht to finish in Zeeland. The route took them there via Gouda and Rotterdam, the closest location to access from Haarlem being Gouda (yes origin of Gouda cheese!). On the previous day, I rode my bicycle from Haarlem to scout out a location along the race route from which to view the 30 seconds of action we would later see. This worked out well as we got a spot near a sharp corner and up a slight incline( there are few "hills" in the lowlands of The Netherlands").

Dutch flags set the scene in the town of Gouda and thousands of people lined the side of the road for hours to see 30 seconds of pro-cycling. We spent a lot of time chatting with people around us and enjoying the positive atmosphere.

Dutch flags set the scene in the town of Gouda and thousands of people lined the side of the road for hours to see 30 seconds of pro-cycling. We spent a lot of time chatting with people around us and enjoying the positive atmosphere.

Before the riders pass by, there is some police presence to ensure the roadway is clear. Prior to the riders there is a caravan of vehicles going by with their riders tossing souvenirs and free items from race sponsors.

Before the riders pass by, there is some police presence to ensure the roadway is clear. Prior to the riders there is a caravan of vehicles going by with their riders tossing souvenirs and free items from race sponsors.

Part of the pre-race caravan. Erica and I each managed to get a cycling cap and some candy (which we happily passed on a family with children next to us). 

Part of the pre-race caravan. Erica and I each managed to get a cycling cap and some candy (which we happily passed on a family with children next to us). 

As a half dozen helicopters hovered near the city, we knew the riders were approaching. These where the leaders of the stage at this point on the north edge of Gouda.

As a half dozen helicopters hovered near the city, we knew the riders were approaching. These where the leaders of the stage at this point on the north edge of Gouda.

Capturing...

Capturing...

...Drama.

...Drama.

Thirty seconds or so after the leaders passed by, we saw this "peloton" of over a hundred riders speed by in a matter of seconds.

Thirty seconds or so after the leaders passed by, we saw this "peloton" of over a hundred riders speed by in a matter of seconds.

30 seconds of TDF from our vantage point!

Shortly after the riders come their support vehicles with a lot of bicycles and urgency...

Shortly after the riders come their support vehicles with a lot of bicycles and urgency...

...and lastly the French security forces.

...and lastly the French security forces.

This was truly different than the usual "TV experience" watching the Tour De France. It was a great community event, positive atmosphere and fun! We would go again should the opportunity arise, perhaps camping in the hills of France... wearing superhero costumes... and chasing cyclists up a hill screaming "allez! allez!" Who knows!?

~ Brian