After hearing of the wonders available in the Tour Village (from Stage 5, in case you missed it), I decided that we should get to the start of Stage 6 super early - so that I, too, could partake in the veritable smorgasbord of local flavours.
You may remember our ongoing struggles to leave our rather self-indulgent digs (see Stage 4 for that story) - well, as it turns out, nothing motivates a hungry Beardy to get up and going early than the promise of a big spread. Especially since we’d just run out of cornflakes and coffee...
The starting town for Stage 6 was a much more low-key affair than the previous towns, so I lucked out a little. Still, I was totally okay with chewing on some chicken drumsticks, chips and pastries while the riders signed-on.
Our first shot was amongst farmlands at the top of a long and fast descent. The sun was high and strong, so shooting the riders at speed in the mottled light under the trees would have been a fool’s errand. Instead, I opted for a wide open vista.
On the road after the descent, riders had discarded their bidons and the fans had swarmed in on them - the ‘emu’ parade of pecking souvenir scavengers was in full effect. The same can be observed, just by the way, before the riders pass through each section as the Tour de France caravan wistfully distributes goodies all over the road in the same manner.
Unfortunately our bidon collection and Caravan swag tally still stands at zero. It is impossible to be chasing shots while also trying to spot stray bidons in the wild!
Speedy had suggested a promising second location over dinner last night, so that was where we headed next. Unfortunately, this looked increasingly unlikely, as, while the peloton was moving slowly, we were soon caught in traffic ourselves, making it almost impossible to gain any lead on the riders before the roads were closed.
We gambled on the spot, conceding that, in the worst case, we’d get the riders as they went past the roadblock.
After some broken French exchanges with the Gendamerie and alternating looks of concern and baffled confusion from Speedy, we got through the roadblock and put the pedal to the metal. We had hit the road just ahead of the leading TdF cars and sped along with Gendamerie motorbike lights bouncing off our mirrors. This is the sort of speed and excitement you can’t get away with under any other circumstances, driving well above the speed limit on a closed road, past hundreds of police officers. The town and shot were quickly upon us and, as fortune seemed to be smiling on us today, a parking spot magically appeared. I sprinted down the road and snapped away, battling the photo-motos for position.
I arrived at the finish line in time to witness my fellow photogs placing bets on who was going to win the stage. As the Manx Missile flew over the line, the cheers of excitement from the photographers rivalled those of the crowd. Some lucky punter got the winning shot and a nice little payday to boot.