Posts tagged: tourdesinc
Here’s a view from inside the Commissar’s Car on Stage 17 of the 2012 Tour de France
I took this (rather jumpy) footage from within Skoda Race Car #2 during stage 17 of the race. At this point, we are following Alexander Vinokurov as he flies down what I recall was Porte de Bales in the French Pyrenees.
Perhaps even more amazing than Vino’s speed was the fact that a BMC rider - either Moinard, Burghardt or Cummins, I’m not sure which one because of the speed that he went past us - overtook just after the descent started. He then went on to pull away at what can only be described as an alarming rate. Our car was doing something like 60 or 70 km/h, so I can’t imagine what speed the rider was travelling.
Also look out for the end of the video when we come through a small village at the base of the next climb. I’m really glad that Serge (our driver) made no mistakes with the car, otherwise, there would have been some very unhappy spectators.
I have to say, this was one of the absolute highlights of the #tourdesinc. I had white knuckles all the way and could barely keep the camera still as Serge took the turns.
Perhaps this can give some small insight into the way these riders risk their lives during a race.
During my recent trip to France, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a day embedded in the Tour de France. By “embedded”, I mean, actually inside one of the Commissar’s cars which is on the road during the race with all of the riders. To say the least, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life!
A couple of things really strike you about the race when you are this close to it. First of all, they go fast. Seriously fast. Even when heading up HC climbs, the cyclists never seem to go much below about 20 km/h. And when they go down hills, the speed is just ridiculous. On most occasions, the bikes are able to go significantly faster than the car because the riders are better able to manoeuvre. We were routinely doing speeds of 70 or 80 km/h in the car, and the cyclists just pull away as if we were standing still.
The second thing is the utter chaos of the moment-to-moment action. Because the race is so intimate with spectators, official cars, team cars, motorcycles and cyclists are all swerving in and out, often coming within millimetres of each other. It is a miracle that we did not hit anything - or anyone - for the 5 hours or so that we spent on the road. Our driver - Serge Bodin - was the French 1998 Amateur Road Champion. And it showed. He had a sympathy for the cyclists and the road that could only have come from direct personal experience. His driving skills were quite remarkable.
Finally, the behind the scenes organisation is just phenomenal. There is - quite literally - a cast of thousands of people, some of whom work for the Tour full time throughout the year, others who are employed for each stage, many team support staff, and a whole swathe of VIPs, hangers on, media and other incidentals. The Village Depart is like a small town that is assembled each night prior to the start, and then disassembled and moved onto the next stage. The same applies to the finish line. And this happens every day for the 21 stages of the race.
I managed to take about 500 photos over the course of the day, but as I am a complete numpt when it comes to photography, I think that only 10 or so are worth sharing. To be honest, I was completely petrified in the car for the most of the trip because at many points all I could do was hold on and hope that Serge maintained control of the car.
This is what the stage looked like in profile:
This is from the helicopter ride from Pau Airport up to the Depart Village: