Le Tour de France – Stage 8 – Dreux to Amiens Métropole

Week 2 – Day 6 – Saturday 14th of July 2018
near Saint Germain du Corbieis to Les Andelys – 109 miles

Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 8 – From Dreux to Amiens Métropole

Today we were in place to see Stage 8 of the 2018 Tour de France and it was going to be the busiest so far. There would be huge crowds along the route for a number of reasons. It was Saturday, so those who were working during the week and only watching highlights on TV would now have an opportunity to see the race in person. It was Bastille Day, the biggest celebration in the French calendar, so it was a national holiday with many businesses that would normally be open, either closed or closing early. Then location came into play as we were not a million miles from Paris or the Channel Ports so crowds could visit the race from far and wide. The final factor was the glorious weather. The French do not need much of an excuse to get out and about and have a roadside family picnic and the Tour de France was a good excuse to line the 181 km route. You can see from the following map where we were for the race, Les Andelys on the river Seine.

Scrambled egg and bacon, tea and toast started the morning to set us up for a day of spectating at Stage 8. It was another scorching hot day and hopefully there would be shade where we would be standing as it would be between three and four hours from getting in place, then the ‘Caravan’ and the race itself passing.

This is the first Stage where we would not be standing beside Bessie, using her facilities or sitting out on the chairs passing the time admiring the scenery, chatting to neighbours or passers by while counting down to the big event.

I transferred all of yesterdays pictures and video from the GoPro and camera onto the laptop to free space for todays action while The Navigator prepared a backpack of drinks and nibbles to keep us sustained. There was a roar overhead and I could not directly see the source of the noise but in the reflection on a car window I saw a massive military jet flying low escorted by four fighter aircraft. This would have made a great picture as they were flying directly over the castle high on the ridge above us. A missed opportunity.

Ten minutes later they returned and I was still not prepared as my phone was still connected by cable to the laptop transferring pictures. Believe it or not they flew over five times in quick succession and you will have to take my word for it as I didn’t manage to get one snap. I believe they were circling this area before heading down to Paris to join in the flyover over the Champs-Elysee as part of the military fly past held there every year.

Bastille Day is being celebrated across France today (Saturday July 14) with many people attend large public events, including parades, performances and firework displays. In Paris, there is a big military parade called the the Fete de la Federation held along the Champs-Elysee, where military personnel march, ride and drive while aircraft fly over the route.

Bastille Day is the French national holiday, which marks the storming of the Bastille in the 1700s, and is known as La Fête Nationale Française. Similarly to Independence Day in the United States, the date marks the beginning of republican democracy and the end of tyrannical rule. Today is a Saturday but normally if the national holiday falls on a weekday the post offices, banks and many businesses all close and public transport may also be affected and roads might be closed.

Today was a double whammy in Les Andelys, it was Bastille Day and the Tour de France was coming to town. How very French, and we were fortunate to be there to join in the celebrations.

The car park we are on filled up with spectators coming in from far and wide and we were blocked in, not that we were planning on moving until after the race. It was time to get in position and we chose to be beside a roundabout after quite a long straight thinking that we would get a better view of the riders as they slowed down to negotiate the roundabout. 

Les Andelys – our location today…

The crowds were already in place lining the route, mostly behind barriers, put in place both to keep people off the road, but also to hang sponsors banners on. We chose our spot but unfortunately there was no shade. This suited The Navigator but not moi. It was late morning but the temperature was already in the 80s so we applied suncream and hoped we would not get too burned.

Apart from the natives, there was a broad mix of nationalities around us with Brits, Belgians, Dutch and Danes there to cheer on their fellow countrymen. The Stage was later won by a Dutchman but we were cheering on the five Brits, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe, all of Team Sky, Adam Yates who rides for the Australian team, Mitchelton-Scott, and Mark Cavendish who rides for Dimension Data.

A Dane and his two young sons were beside us for the duration and we talked to him quite a bit, and even though we watch all the Danish crime dramas on BBC4 on a Saturday night and I used to work for a Danish owned company, our Danish is somewhat lacking, but fortunately he spoke flawless English. There was no sign of the wife/mother but he did say they had come down from the coast where they were on holiday at Deauville, a near two our drive away and no doubt if there was a wife/mother she was enjoying a day of peace and quiet to herself.

He asked us about Scotland and where we lived, but on hearing that we were originally from Falkirk he said he knew about the 1298 Battle of Falkirk where King Edward I of England led the English army to defeat the Scots, led by William Wallace. Braveheart has a lot to answer for! Our knowledge of Danish military battles is somewhat limited, although there is one campaign we know all about thanks to the fantastically well made TV mini series, 1864, about the war between the Danes and the Prussians.

Back in the present day, the Caravan was on the way and the children were getting excited and hoping for a good haul of goodies. When it came it was obvious that the ‘throwers’ had a different tactic for dispensing the goodies in a town as opposed to out in the countryside. Here, in the town with far bigger crowds they were throwing over the heads of the spectators at the roadside where out in the countryside they were threw downwards at your feet. This was probably so no-one would step out onto the road to retrieve something that may have been blown back onto the road from the slipstream of the vehicles.

The oldest Danish boy sussed this out pretty quickly and he and The Navigator, who was helping him, stood about ten feet back from the kerb. The other thing that was noticeable about the crowd in the town was that there was obviously more people there just for this Stage only so were more motivated to get their hands on the freebies. This was highlighted when the McCain chips convoy went past throwing out their plastic shopping bags and one landed at the feet of the Danish boy, only for it to be snatched away from him by a Frenchman. The Danish father remonstrated with the Frenchman in perfect French but he was not for handing it back to the boy, not even when I fixed the offender with an ‘evil eyed death stare’. Sadly there was no shaming this Frenchman and the boy would return to his mother without a McCain shopping bag!

The father later said that they had seen the Tour a few times before and the oldest boy had picked up one of the discarded water bottles that a Katusha-Alpecin rider had thrown onto the roadside and that his son took that water bottle to school every day, without fail.

It was now a two hour wait for the riders to arrive and a lot of people seemed to vanish, probably to have lunch or a picnic back at their cars or in the shade. The Navigator stood at our spot talking to the Dane but the heat was too much for me and I went and stood in the shade of a nearby building for a while where I took this picture.

The old sign…

The crowd started to get excited at the first sound of the distant helicopters meaning either the breakaway, if there is one, or the main Peleton, if there isn’t a breakaway, is only a few miles away. One helicopter always comes ahead filming any points of interest like castles, chateaux and other notable landmarks and these are inserted into the footage of the race, and sometimes, if there is nothing exciting happening in the race, the TV commentators will describe the feature.

A blue helicopter flew right overhead filming the castle above us and it must have looked spectacular from the air, perched as it is above the Seine. A breakaway came into view and flashed past us and we recognised the team jerseys, if not the actual riders. The two leading breakaway riders approached the roundabout on the left side then the ‘Deeerect Energeee’ rider inexplicably then turned to go round on the right side which was the long way round for him.

The two man breakaway splitting at the roundabout…

 

The approaching Peleton…

Then the main event, the Peleton came into view and we were positioned on the right side of the roundabout thinking they would be taking the shortest, slightly straighter way round but no, the field split and went on both sides, with at least two riders I saw change their mind and mount the raised carriageway divider to go from the left side to the right. No wonder they take so many tumbles.

Changing lanes…

 

The Navigator waving and filming at the same time…

 

The Peleton comes together again after the roundabout…

The usual chaos of the following support cars, race officials, gendarmes and other assorted vehicles came past and within minutes, again, it was all over. We made our way back to the van and was surprised to see it was not blocked in so we prepared to get moving, entered the satnav coordinates of the next destination, drove ten yards and had to stop as the car park entrance was blocked by three stone filled wire cages, which was a tad unnecessary as the normal metal barriers would have sufficed and not need the services of a waiting fork truck to move them out of the way.

We sat for a good ten minutes and then the gendarmes instructed the fork truck driver to move the obstruction. Our satnav was indicating that we needed to go through the town on the route the race had taken half an hour before. The gendarmes kept the barriers across the road into the town so we had no alternative but to cross the bridge over the Seine again. Normally a satnav takes the hint and quickly re-routes but not ours this time. It took a good half hour of trying to tell us to go right round a roundabout and head back the way we had come before it gave up.

Eventually it did re-route and we started to head east on a road I think the Romans must have laid out some 2,000 years ago, it was so straight and you could see for miles ahead. Most of the towns and villages we passed through were quiet and all of the shops and businesses were closed because of Bastille Day. We past through the city of Rouen which looked interesting with what looked like a huge cathedral and other old looking buildings, many with spires. Again, thankfully, it was not too busy and it was dual carriageway then motorway before going through a long uphill tunnel to  leave the city.

In the end the drive took over three and a half hours, the extra time caused by initially heading in the wrong direction. We arrived in the village of Paillencourt to find two other British vans parked up at the spot beside the canal that I too had chosen.  One van was a Hobby and the other, parked nearest us was another newish Swift, a Freedom SE bought from the other Lowdhams branch in ‘Uddersfield’. As The Navigator started to prepare some food and I got the chairs out of the garage to sit beside the van overlooking the wide canal, the owner of the other Swift came across to say hello and get acquainted, and, as it turned out get a guided tour of Bessie to compare features with his van. Although his van was well speced, it was no match for Bessie.

Steve was a fellow retiree, but fit as a fiddle as his hobby, and reason for being here was to cycle some of the route of the race on the cobbles tomorrow, and then after the race passes, he and his three companions are making the long trek down to the Alps to ride some of the mountain stages there. His three companions had gone to the little bar over the road from us and eventually they phoned him to say his drink was on the table, as, by his own admission, he could talk for Yorkshire. 

By this time was too late and I was not keen to barbecue after such a long day and drive so we had a tasty quick meal of chilly sausages and fried onions on a brioche finger roll as we sat out watching the dipping sun and the blue dragonflies dart about in front of us. It had been a long day and we were quite tired so didn’t venture over to the bar.

Click on the following video to see the Tour pass us on Stage 8…

STAGE 8 – TOP 3
Dylan Groenewengen – Holland – Team Lotto NL-Jumbo
Peter Sagan – Slovakia – Bora Hansgrohe
John Degenkolb – Germany – Trek-Segafredo

OVERALL TOP 3 AFTER STAGE 8
Greg Van Avermaet – Belgium – BMC Racing Team
Geraint Thomas – Great Britain – Team Sky
Teejay Van Garderen – United States – BMC Racing Team


NEXT BLOG
We are in position to view Stage 9, the Arras Citadelle to Roubaix section and for the highlight will be seeing the riders cope with cobbles for the first time on this race.


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To put this blog post into context here is the route we travelled today…

 


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