Graham Watson’s Tour de France Travel Guide provides the ultimate insider’s access from one of the Tour’s most experienced old hands. In his 31 years of following and photographing the race, Watson has mastered the Tour’s daily challenges—where to eat, where to sleep, how to get around, how to see and photograph the race, and most of all, how to enjoy the greatest show on two wheels. Now Graham shares it all in his beautifully illustrated guidebook. Featuring hundreds of Graham’s award-winning photographs along with full-color maps, travel tips, checklists, and travel resources, this book presents a fresh and unique strategy for getting around the Tour’s many daily obstacles to find a front-row seat for all the action.
It’s usually the TV helicopter that triggers it—a surge of excitement affecting everyone as the noise from the rotor blades drifts up from the valley far below. A cry of delight from some farsighted person acts as the announcement that the peloton has been sighted below that helicopter, provoking a rush of humanity to the vantage point. Sure enough, the peloton is climbing the mountain, though its slow, ant-like progress is both hypnotic and frustrating, for it will take many minutes for the race to reach its audience.
The more athletic fans clamber onto rocky viewpoints, abandoning the roadside territory they’ve been carefully protecting all day. From such a distance, even a pair of good binoculars fails to identify the leaders of the peloton or the team colors in which the cyclists race, adding to the mystery and enjoyment.
The cyclists are getting closer now, just two lacets (hairpin curves) below, and the long convoy of silver, blue, and red race cars that precedes them begins to trickle past. Only minutes to go! Suddenly the cyclists are right below the road on which the spectators are standing, their sweat-soaked jerseys and shorts vivid in the clear mountain air. Faces can be seen too, and—mon Dieu—they look so striking close up!
This last sighting spurs the spectators to a frenzy of activity, with all semblance of order totally abandoned. People who have been guarding their spot for many a long hour suddenly run to a different spot, triggering a scramble by others to take their valued places. Other fans try to climb higher, to get away from the maddening crowd, perhaps settling on a patch of lush grass from which they can see the bigger picture of cyclists, spectators, and awe-inspiring scenery.
Finally, the cyclists arrive, their glistening faces illuminated by the startling mountain light, accentuating the strange glamour of their job. To some fans, the Tour is only about the cyclists, their athleticism, courage, poise, and devotion. To others, it is the overall beauty that counts: the beauty of man struggling against the forces of nature, as well as the beauty of nature itself in a truly wondrous corner of the world.
The cyclists are almost past now, cheered on their way by a cacophony of noise and passion and emotion that will be repeated by thousands of other spectators farther up this climb, and on all the climbs that follow. The Tour has entered the mountains at last, and its greatest fans are there to salute the race.