Swing and swagger
With that swagger, though, comes a little of the natural roister that, while tailor-made for the festival atmosphere of le Tour, needs to be managed responsibly. There may, after all, be cliffs to scale.
The work needs to come first and while my mood naturally aligned me to the crowds who were soaking it in all in, it was important to maintain focus. Remembering the various temptations of the hospitality tent in the Tour Village, and knowing that, in our current disposition we would have a hard time saying no, we skipped the start completely - and headed for the first climb.
The town Saint-Geniez-d’Olt was absolutely buzzing. These guys seemed up for anything and, with the race coming straight through the centre of town, the festivities were only just getting started. I had planned to pass though to shoot the first category climb of stage 15 but, after seeing the old bridge over the river, and the electricity in the air, this seemed like a better option.
We moved the car away from the race route, pointing in the direction of a speedy exit, and headed out to search for the best locations on foot. There was a monument looking down on the town from a steep hill so, naturally, we climbed to the top. Hoping to find a vantage spot of the stone bridge and river, we hit the jackpot with a great view of the slate rooftops as well. It was a perfect bird's eye view to capture the riders, and ambience, so I left Mrs McBeard set up and in position, before hiking back down to the town.
One of my favourite moments from this year’s Giro was the incredible stage 14 adventure the Stuntman and I stumbled upon (if you haven’t read that one yet, it is truly worth the click).
I won’t spoil the story, for those yet to read it, but we ended up feeling like a part of the race, witnessing it through the eyes of people who had lived their whole lives in the area, and for whom the grand tours are more than just sporting events - they are a part of the social fabric. The race is inexplicably and inextricably connected to the people - and the people to the race.
So, after waving to a group lunching in their window, and them, subsequently, inviting me up to join them, I jumped at the chance.
As is customary in these parts, food = love. Therefore, before I knew it, I had a thick slice of bread slathered in terrine in one hand and a glass of rosé in the other. This was the life, sitting with my new French friends while munching away, watching the race below and learning the history of the building that dated back to 1705!
When I rendezvoused back with Mrs McBeard, I confessed I'd been dabbling in wine while she’d been stuck in the scorching midday sun. I got another one of those looks. Luckily, I wasn't the one driving.
Smoke, swingers and selfie sticks
The buzz had worn off by the time we reached Col de Peyra Taillade and I was ready to get some work done.
As usual, there were plenty of characters out to have some fun, so I snapped them before looking for the nearest tree or cliff to climb. The road was narrow and packed with spectators, so a higher vantage point was likely to yield the best angle. Or at least mean I could avoid the swinging selfie sticks and runners in blue man suits.
To add some additional drama, a TV motor bike filming the riders started overheating, sending plumes of smoke between the rider’s legs.
Jumping down from my perch to grab some secondary angles, I heard a mighty rip. My shorts had torn right down the middle! I had to keep my knees as close together as possible for the remainder of the stage, to avoid flashing anyone.
This is not the first time I’ve had a blowout, but it was the first time on Beardy’s Caravan. All the way from knee to waistband.
Mrs McBeard couldn’t believe the state of me as I shuffled (or knee-knocked) my way back to the car. I had twigs and leaves in my beard, was saturated in sweat and sporting shorts that were, literally, torn to shreds. She laughed that I was slowly becoming a Frenchman, moving towards a state of au naturale.
Luckily it was time for a rest day - so I could get a new pair!