One of the nice things about pro race chasing is that they don’t start very early in the morning (so you can leisurely make your way to the start area) and they nearly always finish in the mid-late afternoon (so you can get lost nearly as many times as you like and still get to the stage finish on time).
It was the latter for us on Sunday and after a morning visit to the Contemporary Art Museum of Nice (view from the roof below) we made our way to where I thought we should be going.
But life is rarely that easy, at least for me. Shoko and I spent a month very near what I thought would be the finish line in 2008 (studying French at a fabulous school, for those who might be interested) and I figured I knew my way around. The ‘Col d’Eze’ should logically be in the village of ‘Eze’, which is even on the top of a cliff. Mais non, it’s actually in a village called ‘Col d’Eze’ which is even further up from Eze. It wasn’t a major hassle in the end because we found a back route that got us up to the top pretty quickly and even found some parking not too far away from the end line. After a leisurely walk along the ridge we found ourselves surrounded by team cars, folks with press passess and people like this guy, who had just finished his time trial.
‘Tommeke’! Tom Boonen, who dispels quickly the myth that cyclists are petit. He’s 6’4 and 82 kg.
I decided that this would be a good place to eat my sandwich, so we parked ourselves across the road from Tommeke and Co. and watched as rider after rider freewheeled past us.
It was all a very low-key, informal affair and there was zero security. This must be one of the best things about being a cycling fan – you can get up-close and personal if you want. We slowly made our way towards the finish line and saw a few riders as they crossed the line. Here is Tasmanian Richie Porte (or ‘Porté’ as the announcer insisted on calling him).
World Champion drooler, Tony Martin.
Shoko was having some serious lens envy (she’s doing photography at art school).
Then we moved again, this time for good – a spot around 50 meters from the end, where we encountered:
Japanese hero, Yukio Arashiro.
Lousy luck Levi Leipheimer (he crashed 3 times the day before, putting him out of contention).
Elder statesman (he’s 40) Jens Voigt.
French chou chou, Thomas Voeckler.
Rising star (and best young rider), Tejay van Garderen.
Overall 3rd place, Alejandro Valverde.
Near winner, Lieuwe Westra.
And the man of the hour (and the week), 2012 Paris-Nice winner Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins won the stage as well with a speed of 30 kph (18.6 mph); this, on a 9.6 km course that was 100% uphill and with an elevation gain of nearly 500 meters (1600 feet). Now get back on the trainer. You’ve got some work to do!