Since the last edition of Beardy’s Caravan things have gone a bit crazy. My semi-accidental image of a spectator trying to grab Geraint Thomas on the final climb of Stage 17, the Col du Portet, has gone viral , and while I ducked out for a quick spin before today’s stage, I had to pull over a number of times to field calls from various media outlets trying to get their hands on a copy of the photo. It’s amazing to think that despite all the hours of planning and preparation, it’s a random moment like this that captures everyone’s attention. I guess a picture really is worth a thousand words.
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to going back to the relative monotony of the flatlands after a couple of exciting mountain stages, especially after the excitement of my newfound fame and the now constant barrage of enquiries clogging up my email and social media. Luckily the parcours for Stage 18 – from Trie-sur-Baise to Pau – was pretty much a loop, with plenty of stops and cut-throughs on the agenda, and plenty of opportunities to create our own excitement. Álvaro would have a chance to connect with his inner Colin McRae , and I’d go back to my usual agenda of digging my nails into my palm and holding onto the oh sh*t handle for dear life.
Hot Dub Wine Machine
Our first stop on the race route was near a bunch of vintage firetrucks and equipment – where had they been on Stage 6? I had a shot from inside one of the trucks all lined up and ready to go, but just before the peloton appeared, the old fellas started them up, vintage engines spluttering into life under clouds of black smoke. The smoke had just cleared when they cranked up the sirens and went on their merry way. With my ears ringing all the way to the next stop, I really hope the guys actually driving the trucks wear earplugs – but guessing by the way they didn’t flinch at the genuinely painful wailing, they’re probably deaf already.
Stop two was at the Côte de Madiran, the first of two cat-4 molehills that the peloton would be tackling on the stage. As we soon found out, it was also the site of a dance party in the grape vines. The boisterous locals had consumed enough of the fermented and bottled result of the produce surrounding them to not notice (or care) that it was genuinely sweltering. My beard was dripping with sweat just thinking about jumping around in the boiling Pyrenean sun, so when they tried to get me to participate I politely declined. In any other conditions, I can assure you I’m quite the dancer.
Can I see your ID?
Spot three for the day looked great in theory; I was hoping the crystal-clear lake would allow me to capture the riders reflected in the water. Now sometimes on the Tour, you have to bend the rules a little bit to get the shot – at least that’s what I told myself as I entered a lakeside property. It turns out that I’m not the only one with a somewhat cavalier attitude to property rights and trespass, as I was soon joined by a bunch of moto-photographers. The two ladies whose garden we were standing in were so overwhelmed by all of the people entering their property that they stopped twirling their flags and asked to see our credentials. Álvaro and I were already cutting it pretty fine, so I shot off a quick shot of the maillot jaune and made a discreet exit.