Last Sunday night the Brits took over the Champs Élysées. We were all there to watch Chris Froome win the Tour de France and it was amazing. It was the first time our family has been in the right place at the right time to watch any stage of the Tour and even though we knew it would be crazy we couldn't pass up the opportunity to experience this iconic French event. We arrived three hours before the riders were due to enter Paris, which was just in time to watch the caravan of promotional floats pass through, but not in time to get close enough for any good photos of it! After walking down the Champs for a while and soaking up the carnival atmosphere, we settled on a spot to watch the race where the crowd wasn't too deep and it wasn't long before the girls were able to wiggle to the front of the barrier and get a great view. They held their spot reasonably patiently for an hour while there was nothing to see and we kept track of the race from the big screen outside the Louis Vuitton building.
As the riders approached Paris and passed the Eiffel Tower, the excitement started to build, a flypast heralded their arrival on the Champs Élysées and then the race was on. The peloton passed by in a blur, riding so fast over the cobbles it took your breath away. 30 seconds and they were gone and if we had been watching any other stage of the race, that would have been it. Luckily for us, in celebration of the 100th Tour de France the race finished this year with ten laps of the Champs Élysées instead of just one, so we held our ground for another hour and watched the race go by nine more times hardly believing our eyes when for the last few laps, in order to pick up speed and avoid the cobbles, every rider in the pack came tearing down the gutter at over 40mph!
Even though cycling is one of those sports that you can definitely see better on TV, nothing beats the experience of watching the incredible speed and skill of the riders as they race past, even if it's so fast your eyes can't keep them in focus, let alone your camera! There was an exciting finish as all the British supporters screamed ourselves hoarse in the hopes of seeing a British winner of the Stage as well as the Tour, but sadly sprinter Mark Cavendish was just beaten on the line. It was a proud moment though to be present on a beautiful summer's night to watch a British rider climb to the top of the podium and hear the National Anthem on the Champs Élysées!
It was an experience not to be missed and well worth all the waiting, walking and the late night.
Congratulations Chris Froome and Team Sky - the first Stage next year starts in Yorkshire!