We made it to Stage 21, the final stage, which meant a mega transfer from the Alps all the way to Paris. After the Stage 20 finish yesterday, we made a move to knock 150km off the journey and ended up in Bourg en Bresse again.
With a 4 hour drive ahead we had already thrown Speedy's mix tape out the window, after listening to it one too many times. We went back to the classics with Nostalgie, baguettes and Prince biscuits while we reminisced about the amusing town names we’d seen, coffees we’d made on the side of the road and the crazy characters we’d met along the way to the Stage 21 finale.
The peloton must have really been keen for a coffee-ride pace as we parked with plenty of time to spare. We were left with no option but to find a comfy patch of grass in the shade and wait for them to get closer to Paris. As the bunch drew near, we moved to our little press enclosure at one end of the Champs Élysées and saw the friends we made along the way, including Moto Mark, our fuel card miracle man, and some of the other photogs.
Since we were at one end of the boulevard, we would shoot the riders coming from one side, then we would move to the other side of the road and wait for them to come back down - then rinse and repeat. It’s nice to not have to think about where to shoot, but I’d prefer a mad crowd on tiny switchbacks to a straight bit of city road any day.
Driving through the streets of Paris felt a long away from yesterday's winding mountain roads. For the riders, chattering along the cobbles of the Champs Élysées must bring a sense of relief and accomplishment, no matter how they were placed - it sure did for us. For some of the riders, the cobbles may have also felt quite hard and painful as there were a couple of hard crashes. Those poor guys racing thousands of kilometres unscathed, only to come undone in the final minutes of the Tour. Perhaps the best part of the day was seeing Andre Greipel win the sprint. We had been hoping for most of the Tour that he’d at least get some sprint points, but the stage win would have been that much sweeter for our pal the big German.
Three weeks of long days and late nights, and hundreds of gigabytes of images, have come to a screeching halt. As I sit in the airport, scrolling through the pages of this story, it's hard not to smile and even laugh out loud as I relive another crazy adventure. I often have to pinch myself as I can’t believe that this is my job - and I'll be back to do it all again next year. I look forward to hopefully seeing a few of you there!
Thanks for coming along for the ride. Au revoir, Beardy (and Speedy)