TOUR DE FRANCE – my view from the street

Rotterdam was very excited about seeing you today, Lance.

Hi Lance,

I hope you too enjoyed the fourth of July, because we had a cracker of a day in Rotterdam.

We turned out in our hundreds of thousands, just hoping to glimpse you for a second. I know you were probably looking out for me, but if you did spot me across a crowded street, forgive me if I didn’t return your cheery wave. It was bedlam out there.

There was plenty of pre-match entertainment to keep us amused. You probably never see that, because you’re always in the team bus doing stretching exercises, getting massages and avoiding questions from the media, but if you sneak out in disguise one morning and have a wander around, I think you’ll enjoy what’s going on.

The cavalcade of advertisers’ vehicles began at 10am. There were lots of enthusiastic young ladies throwing things into the crowd. I think they’ll be more tired and grumpy by the time they get to the Alps, and the free merchandise may have run out by then, but we enjoyed it today.

Anyone who works for a sponsor can get their fifteen seconds of fame.

I got a lovely headband from a hotel chain, and a packet of three squashed madeleine cakes from a baker called St Michel. Small but delicious! The lady next to me caught a big green rubber hand with the name of a bank on it. She loved it too, and waved it at every opportunity.

In the People’s Park by the harbourfront, I had the chance to buy an official Tour de France package of ten items – cap, t-shirt, playing cards…excellent value at 20 euros the lot. However, the Rotterdam council was handing out free tour caps, so instead I joined the Dutch cheapskates queuing up for them.

There was then a slight lull in proceedings for an hour and a half while we waited for the race proper to start. I strolled the streets of Rotterdam, and imagine my joy to discover a Walk of Fame near the Maritime Museum. Your handprint wasn’t there on the pavement yet, Lance, but your time will come, I’m sure. Some of my favourite celebrities were there already, including Johan Cruyff (a footballer), Shirley Bassey (a singer) and Tina Turner (another singer). And also this one who I’m sure needs no further explanation…

You can feel the magic, you can hear the music!

Then the helicopters appeared overhead and we knew it was time to start jostling for vantage points by the rails. I managed to get a spot on a bridge as you passed underneath.

Thanks to my correspondent Bram for identifying the riders. He has good eyes, a hi-res monitor and too much time on his hands!

Then I rushed across the road to see you pass again when the peloton looped back and reappeared.

The mayor of Rotterdam thought we were cheering for him. We do quite like him, actually, the first Dutch mayor of Moroccan ancestry.

The course was rather narrow, so I got up really close to the riders this time…

I think Number 150-something said, 'G'day' to me. Maybe it was 'Get outta the way.'

Five seconds later it was all over. Your spare bikes got a round of applause as they were driven past on the roof of a support vehicle, but the fire had gone out of the Rotterdammers’ bellies by then. Their tour was over. I walked sadly back to the station, to take the train back to Amsterdam, where a TV set was waiting.

Then a hoarding by the station caught my eye. It was a quote from you, Lance, and a very good one too. I’m taking it to heart, and I hope you do too. Cheers, Richard.

STOP PRESS: Alessandro Petacchi wins sprint finish in Brussels. No change in general classification – Cancellara in the yellow jersey, Armstrong still fourth. Cavendish is held up by a fall and can’t contest the sprint.

6 Comments

Filed under Cycling, Holland, Sport

6 responses to “TOUR DE FRANCE – my view from the street

  1. Pingback: Petacchi wins as crashes ignite 4th of July fireworks « The armchair sports fan

  2. Tim

    Great shots, Richard! Looks like you had a good time in Rotterdam. Makes me want to dig out my photos from London in 2007 …

  3. mike

    Now that, sir, is sports reporting!

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