After Mont Ventoux we were exhausted - and had our fingers crossed for a late start on Stage 13. Unfortunately, le Tour doesn't seem to factor our individual R&R needs into the stage planning (Fabrice?) and so, in a move that reeked of self-imagined vendetta and non-existent conspiracy went ahead and scheduled an Individual Time Trial. You know, just to really stick the boot in. So, not only would we now have an earlier-than-normal start for Stage 13, but it would also be a long day out in the sun capturing a near-40km ITT (shout-out to all our cycling buddies back home in NSW taking part in the 40km TTT champs at Nowra).
With some apprehension we set course for a spot half-way along the race route. The apprehension was due to the fact we knew it was a long shot - and might well be blocked by Gendarmes. After making it through the critical intersection without drama, we shared a high-5 and parked the car - we could hardly believe our luck. We thought to ourselves 'if only every day could run this smoothly' and even allowed ourselves to relax a little, thinking the shot was in the bag.
Our celebrations were, of course, inevitably cut short as a polite young Gendarme wandered over, mid-pats-on-back, and sweetly informed us that we couldn't walk down the descent to the famous Le Pont D’arc after all.
Making the best of a bad situation, we stuck around and grabbed some shots of the first few riders on the course - looking out over the river below and cliffs in the distance - before jumping back into the car. After chowing down on a baguette au naturel (i.e. bread) we fanged along on back-roads trying to navigate around the immense gorges and get as close to Le Pont D’arc as possible.
It seemed like everyone was on holiday once we got out of the car, with swimsuits-a-plenty and ice cream being eaten by the bucket-load. We decided that we needed to channel some holiday vibes ourselves and grabbed some Cornettos.
After walking for a couple of kilometres licking our Cornettos (before they melted in the fierce midday sun), we came across the tunnels cut into the rock that we'd been searching for. We had reached Le Pont D’arc.
The best part about a time-trial stage is that you can try out a bunch of spots on the rest of the riders - before deciding where to shoot the favourites. How could I go past a head-on shot of the GC contenders coming out of the tunnel and straight towards me, with the afternoon light hitting them at just the right angle? I couldn’t. So I didn’t.
Once Froomey shot past, we headed for another photographer’s car and he gave us a high-speed lift back to ours. Our day wasn’t yet over as we still had to drive through the course to get to our Airbnb and, naturally, the low-fuel light flicked on. With the engine running on fumes, we rolled into the 24hr servo which didn't accept foreign credit cards. Another ‘presse’ moto rolled up so I used the generally-applicable camaraderie to call in a favour - I gave him some cash and he used his card to get our pump going. With the tank now full we made it to our beds just before sunset - thus ending another day of wonderfully unexpected madness.