The route of the Tour de France changes every year; sometimes the ride passes relatively near us, and sometimes it doesn’t. And since we’ve lived in Daglan, Jan and I had seen a Stage of the Tour in four different locations, before this year’s race.
In 2011, we were at a corner in the historic town of Figeac. In 2012, we watched the Tour in a hamlet called Pont de Rhodes, relatively close to Daglan. In 2014, we watched the Tour with friends Suzanne and Mark in the pouring rain at a village called Miramont-de-Guyenne, west and a bit south of Daglan. And then in 2017 we picnicked with a fairly large group of friends at Vitrac Port, which is pretty much halfway between Daglan and Sarlat. But this year, for Friday’s Stage 19, we headed south into the département of the Lot.
Our destination was a village to the west of Cahors, to the home of friends Sarah and Karl. Travelling with us were friends Elisabeth and Gerhard, plus his parents, who have been visiting from their home in South Africa. And it turned out to be a grand day — lots of fun, and a good look at the Tour.
We arrived at the home of Sarah and Karl at about 11:30, and immediately set up under a huge oak tree in the back yard to relax, drink wine, and enjoy a picnic. Jan had prepared the picnic, including sautéed salmon with dill sauce, tossed salad, and fresh fruit. No rush to eat, because the “Caravan” — that long parade of vehicles promoting various products and companies that precedes the Tour riders — wasn’t due in the neighbourhood until about 3:30.
Well before then we were seated comfortably along the road where the Tour would pass, and began watching as all kinds of vehicles — police in cars and on motorcycles, other motorcycles, and a range of cars — zoomed by. And then the Caravan came rolling up.
I’ve chosen to highlight just a few of the wheeled creations in the Caravan, starting with this vehicle promoting LCL, the large bank formerly known as Le Crédit Lyonnais, which is a long-time supporter of the Tour:
A high proportion of the vehicles in the Tour are Skodas, as the car manufacturer has been a major supporter of the Tour for years. More recently (since 2015) Skoda is the sponsor of the green jersey competition, in which the best sprinter in the Tour gets to wear the green jersey and collect extra prize money. Here’s the company’s Caravan entry:
Next up is FDJ (for Française des Jeux) which is the company that operates France’s national lottery games. and which sponsors its own cycling team in the Tour. In this photo, our view of the vehicle is partly blocked by a raised glass, which is not an uncommon sight along the route :
What makes the Caravan so popular with children (and those of us who are young at heart) is that riders on many of the vehicles throw goodies to the crowd as they pass by — everything from packets of laundry detergent to key chains to hats. And since Haribo is a candy maker, this vehicles is particularly popular with people along the route. (Yes, Jan snagged a pack of candies, among other things.)
Finally, here’s a vehicle that is just about my favourite, since it’s so clever. As you can see, the brand represents a variety of poultry products:
Eventually the Caravan finished rolling past, and after a wait of about an hour, the first of the racers came blasting past us. This happens so quickly that it’s virtually impossible to pick out individual riders; instead, if you want photos, you just have to keep shooting away.
As it turned out, by chance I caught two of the most important riders in the Tour — the rider in the green jersey (top sprinter) and the rider in the yellow jersey (the Danish rider who is expected to be this year’s winner when the Tour finishes in Paris this evening, Sunday, July 24). Here they are, ahead of another group:
And finally, there’s look at the so-called peloton, which simply means the largest grouping of riders in any one Stage:
When the last of the riders rolled past us, the eight of us packed up and headed back to the shade of the huge oak tree. There we celebrated with a few more glasses of wine before switching to coffee, and then heading out for the drive back to Daglan. Jan and I arrived home just before 9 p.m., tired but happy. It had been quite a grand day.