Friday, August 18, 2017

Watch Stage 19 of the 2017 Tour de France with us near Lauris France

As soon as Stephanie was denied boarding on the XL Airlines flight to Paris in July 2106, we decided right then to return to Sablet with she and her family in July 2017. I was happy when the route for the 2017 Tour de France was announced that a stage would pass relatively close to Sablet and we could include that among our activities.

Stage 19 was to take place on Friday, July 21. The riders would depart from Embrun, which sits at 2890 feet elevation and pedal 220 km, the longest stage on the 2017 Tour de France, to the finish in Salon-de-Provence, at 256 feet elevation.

In between, they had to ride up two King of the Mountain climbs within the first 43 km; Col de Lebraut, a 4.7 km climb at 6%, and Côte de Bréziers, a 2.3 km climb at 5.8%. The riders would then ride on rolling hill roads until they arrived at Col de Pointu, at km marker 171, a 5.8 km ascent of 4.1%. The last 45 km of stage 19 would be on descending roads to the finish in Salon-de-Provence.

Map of Stage 19 of the 2017 Tour de France

While we could have gone anywhere between Banon and Salon-de-Provence to watch the race very easily, we decided to go to Lauris, an ancient village about 5 km from Lourmarin, perched on a high ridge overlooking the Durance River Valley. The most dominant building is the large 18th-century chateau, with its hanging gardens at the top of the cliffs seen below.

Lauris chateau built in 1702

We figured it would be less crowded in Lauris than near the finish line in Salon-de-Provence and it would be relatively easy to meet up with cousins Jean-Marc and Christine who were driving from Montpellier to join us for the fun.

Sign announcing the road would be closed because of the Tour de France from 2 PM to 6 PM

After driving around the area to find good vantage spots, we positioned ourselves at the bottom of the road which descends from Lauris just before the roundabout where the riders would make a sharp turn right onto the D973 and head towards Mérindol.

Roundabout at the bottom of the hill after the descent from Lauris

After deciding where to position ourselves, we headed into Lauris to get food and refreshments to enjoy while we waited for the Tour de France caravan to arrive to our corner. The ladies jumped out and went into a pizzeria and emerged with several pizzas, two bottles of rosé wine, Evian water, bottle opener and glasses. We were all set.

Shirley and grandson Dylan

The caravan was scheduled to depart Embrun at 10:30 AM and travel 192 km before they got to our vantage point around 3:18 PM (15h18). We parked our van under trees which provided shade next to woods with wild prune trees and privacy for a "natural" porta potty.

Well it was a hot day, and the chilled rosé hit the spot so it didn't last very long. While scoping out our location, I noticed on the other side of the D973 was the "Cave de Lauris". So I crossed the highway and discovered a little shop selling chilled wine from Lauris. So I bought a couple of local rosés, added a chestnut leaf wrapped goat cheese from Banon and a packet of dry saucisson, perfect with the wine.

Shirley and granddaughter Jilian

The publicity caravan arrives below.

Vittel leads the publicity caravan

Tour de France car

The first cyclists arrive! But they are not professionals, nor do they have anything officially to do with the race. They are amateur or tourist cyclists who ride the Tour route, but start 5 hours before the actual race. Because the roads on which the riders travel are closed for cars hours before the race, these cyclists can ride the entire route in safety without any risk of being run down by traffic.

1st cyclists at the Tour de France

Tour de France car

The next group of cyclists to arrive are the "Juniors", a small group of cyclists less than 18 years of age who are preparing to move on to professional careers as Tour de France cyclists but have not reached the right age.

The “Junior” Tour de France

Daughter Stephanie with Dylan and Madison, all are proudly wearing their yellow hats

By now, we had heard several times from Jean-Marc saying they were in traffic. Finally, they called one last time to say they couldn't get close to where we were because of the wide radius of road closures and traffic and were turning around to go home.

Left to right Earl, Dylan, Stephanie, Madison, Shirley and Jilian

Many people come for the publicity caravan, not for the race. And that is because they get lots of free stuff. There are some 170 permanently decorated vehicles representing 35 brands. 600 people in these special vehicles hand out 18 million items to the public. The first publicity vehicle to arrive is one from LCL bank. The whole procession lasts 35 minutes and is 12 kilometers long.

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Skoda is not only a main sponsor, they also supply all the official cars for the Tour; officials, stewards, race control, etc.

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Rider in the Bic pen car throwing out pens

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan. Note all riders are belted to the vehicles for safety.

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

Sponsor car in the caravan

View from our position to the roundabout where the riders have to make a sharp right turn onto the D973

View to the roundabout where the riders make the sharp right turn

View from the roundabout down the D973

Tour de France official car

Team car

Team car

Kids patiently waiting for the riders to reach our vantage point

The first of five TV helicopters has arrived. The helicopters follow the race really close, so you know the riders are about to arrive.

First TV helicopter on the Tour de France to arrive in sight

On July 1, 198 riders comprising 22 teams with 9 riders each, departed Düsseldorf, Germany for an individual time trial on the 1st of 21 stages over 23 days that would ultimately take the riders 3,540 km before the race concluded on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 23.

Riders in the breakaway group approach our vantage point

The breakaway riders are led by a ŠKODA Superb painted "Corrida Red" which serves as Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme's technologically modified mobile control center from which he manages the Tour. It’s from here he also entertains dignitaries such as the French President, ready to serve them chilled champagne from the minibar and provide them panoramic views through the car’s retractable glass roof.

Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme's mobile control center

The 169 riders still in the race had departed from Embrun at 12h15 and the breakaway group arrived at our vantage point below Lauris shortly before 17h00.

Here they come!

The breakaway is a rider or group of riders who have pulled ahead and put some distance from the peloton.

A member of Team FDJ sponsored by the French national lottery leads the breakaway riders at our vantage point

Breakaway riders

Breakaway riders

Breakaway riders

Breakaway riders

Breakaway riders

Breakaway riders

Last of the breakaway riders

The last breakaway rider followed by a motorcycle journalist

Motorcycle journalist

The 4 other TV helicopters approach

Here comes the main group of riders

Team Sky leads the way down the hill from Lauris

Team Sky

Team Sky

Team Sky members escort their teammate Chris Froome wearing the yellow jersey

The yellow jersey is worn during the race by the cyclist who has completed the previous stages of the Tour in the least amount of time. The coveted jersey is given to the winner at the end of the Tour de France on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Chris Froome in the yellow jersey reaches our vantage point

The peloton is where the main group of riders stay during the race.

The peloton

Some of Team AG2R La Mondiale

The peloton

The peloton

Team AG2R La Mondiale

The peloton

The peloton

Cannondale Drapac Professional Cycling Team in green jerseys

Cannondale Drapac Professional Cycling Team in green jerseys

The peloton

The peloton

Some members of the Astana Pro Team in light blue jerseys followed by members of the Quick Step Team

Members of the Quick Step Team

The peloton

The peloton

The mountains classification is a secondary competition in the Tour de France. A polka-dot jersey is given to the rider that gains the most points for reaching mountain summits first. The leader of the classification is named the King of the Mountains, and wears a white jersey with red polka dots.

Warren Barguil of Team Sunweb wears the polka-dot jersey at the front

The Cofidis, Solutions Credit Team wear the red jerseys 

The peloton

The peloton

The peloton

The peloton

The peloton

The peloton

The peloton

The peloton

Team car

Team car

Team car

Team car

The end of the peloton

After they passed our vantage point on the roundabout, the riders had another 30 km to peddle before they got to the finish line in Salon-de-Provence. Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen rode to victory on the right side of a roundabout with 2.8km to go and crossed the finish line in 05h 06' 09''.

Chris Froome of Great Britain retained the yellow jersey as he finished in a group more than ten minutes behind the stage 19 winner. He would keep the yellow jersey until the finish in Paris.