The longest and shortest stages of the Tour de France (TdF) included Bagnères-de-Luchon in their routing, making the spa town twinned with Harrogate an ideal base for viewing Le Tour in the Pyrenees. On our way there, via the Col de Peyresourde, a supporters army had already chocked up their shiny white camper vans along the steep slopes. We were going downhill, the tour would be cranking it up there in two days time.
We found a good spot on the corner of Cours Des Quinconces to tie our three flags (Maple Leaf, Union Jack and Yorkshire Rose) on the barriers and waited. Steadily, over five hours, the crowds arrived and the excitement built. Alex, a reporter from The Yorkshire Post saw the county flag and came over for a chat (an article was posted in The Harrogate Advertiser). The baking mountain sun was pleasantly abated by an occasional spray of water from the Vittel truck going up and down the final section of the course. The tour riders might have liked that refreshment as they peddled up from Carcassonne, over 237 km away.
A little after 5:00pm, Michael Rogers of Team Tinkoff Saxo came through the town all on his own. It was the 34 year old Australian’s first TdF stage win in his long professional cycling career.
The next day, Le Tour started back down the valley at Saint-Gaudens. Stage 17 may have been listed as the shortest distance in the 21 days (125 km) but it was heavily punctuated with four monster climbs finishing at the ski resort above Saint-Lary-Soulan. We got out on the street early again, this time in Saint Mamet on a corner facing up towards the Col de Portillon. We knew the riders would be screaming down from there after a short visit into Spain and this corner was going to slow things down just a little. In a matter of seconds though, the bikes were through, heading on to Luchon before rising again to Col de Pyresourde and then Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet. Polka Dot-clad Rafal Majka made an impressive attack on the final slopes to claim the stage-the second in two days in the mountains for team Tinkoff Saxo.
For more photos of the Tour de France 2014, please see J. Ashley Nixon Photography