What I did on my vacation:
or proof that Karma really works!
By: Geoff Walsh
For those of you whose wheels I regularly sit on, and those of you who don’t know me so well, it appears that I have become (in) famous for having the crappiest bike in the club and always having to be back before my kitchen pass runs out on the one time per week I get let off the leash. Whilst I’m sure this is all very amusing for the casual observer, I can assure you all it is a very frustrating and unsatisfactory state of affairs. So why you might wonder am I wasting your time and the Club’s bandwidth on this diatribe, when it might be better addressed to Ann Landers. Well dear readers, as the sub-title suggests, all the pain and embarrassment has added up in the positive karmic balance of life to endow me with the proverbial experience of a lifetime.
Allow me to explain. Unsurprisingly, along with just about every other decision made in my household, I didn’t get the opportunity to plan the dates or venue of my summer vacation. However, I desperately needed to take my daughter to Europe, since she had not seen her Grandmother and Uncle, who live in England, or her Aunt, who lives in France, for two years. We were grudgingly given an arbitrary two-week period in July in which to travel. But hold the phone, did I mention the words France and July in the same breath? Surely this would be too much of a coincidence- being in L`Hexagone during La Grande Boucle? What about the route? I hear you ask. It’s no good being in Brittany when the lads are going over the Alps. Imagine my surprise then when I discovered that stage 15, from Limoux to Montpellier, would run through Olonzac, the quaint little village five km. down the road from my sister’s place on the first weekend of our trip. Ah yes you say, but surely you won’t be able to get there without chartering a private jet. At this point I was starting to get excited, thinking it might just be possible. A quick look at Ryanair’s website confirmed that we could get over on the Friday and back on Monday without taking out a new mortgage. After a few clicks on the mouse, we were done, the plan was hatched, and the cosmic karmic Universe had finally paid me back! I was off to see the Tour!
Fast forward to Sunday 17th July. I was like the proverbial kid at Christmas, barely able to contain the excitement, proudly wearing my CCB Jersey, I was out the door in plenty of time before the roads were closed.
I reasoned that the stretch by the Canal du Midi would be too fast to see anything, and the one and only climb; the 4th category Cote de Villespassans would be shoulder-to-shoulder camper vans. It was (they were Belgians). So having ‘walked’ the course with my brother-in-law the previous day, we settled on a nice straight uphill stretch just after the village of Beaufort, 64.5 km into the stage. Picnic duly packed, along with the obligatory Manx flag brandished by brother-in-law (I warned him that the Manx Missile would probably be well surrounded in the pack, so not to expect any acknowledgement), we staked out our spot. We were there in plenty of time before the caravan went by. I went for a quick walk up and down the hill to soak in some atmosphere
There was a mini league of nations to make friends with. As well as the local French population, there were Belgians, Dutch, Aussies and a very nice Irish family who were in the area and thought they would see what all the fuss was about. The sense of excitement started to build. Sure enough, the caravan came whistling by. Lots of noise and a few goodies flung in our general direction. I managed to snag a couple of trinkets for my daughter.
After the caravan had passed, the excitement was put on pause as the whole world stopped for a while so we could eat our picnic at the side of the road- it was midday after all, and we were in France! Lunch over, the frisson again started to build. We heard there had been a breakaway as expected. Now we were waiting for the tell tale sound of the helicopters…Sure enough, as the excitement continued to build, a seemingly infinite series of motorcycles, team cars and official cars went by. Then, the moment we were all waiting for- les courers! The breakaway first, comprising five intrepid riders. one of whom was Niki Terpstra of the Quick Step team- doing an admirable impression of Ray Deslauriers on his lovely EMX-5!
Next, we were treated to another seemingly endless convoy of vehicles. Then, the main event- le peloton. They seemed to be quite relaxed, but still very purposefully tapping out the tempo up the incline. The BMC guys were up front doing the work on my side of the road.
I have to concede that I didn’t pick out anyone wearing a yellow or green shirt (despite my Manx flag waving companion). Following the massed ranks of the peloton, I spotted a Rabobank rider, chatting nonchalantly to his team car as it sped along. Then the instantly recognizable jersey of the Champion of Belgium- Philippe Gilbert, back with his car. Cool. A couple more vehicles, and that’s all folks- the show was over. A few deep breaths to soak up the last of the atmosphere, a quick salut and good-bye to our newly made friends, and that was your lot. Jump into the car and back for a dip in the pool and check out the video footage. We checked in with the home team, who had been watching on the box, only to find that the TV coverage went to break just before they got to us!@#$%^&*.