La Mongie, 16 July 2004

We had a great day out watching the Tour de France. My sister, Sarah, and her husband, Dave, were staying at the time, so we all rode up together to see it.

We rode up to within about 3km of La Mongie on the final climb of the day, which was about 20km (all uphill) from Bagneres for us. The ride was fine - and there were loads of other people doing the same thing, so it was quite fun to be out and a part of it all. Plus, it was good to be cruising past all the people queuing in their cars. It was a very hot morning, though, so by the end it was getting a bit tough. Patrick was riding with Sophie on the back, and she was great until the last kilometre, when she'd just had enough. As soon as we hit the shade of the trees, we took her out, and I walked up the last part with her (joined by Sarah and Dave), while Patrick took the bikes up to find a good spot.

It was an excellent place to watch from (we'd actually driven up before and sussed it out). Most people had gone further up, so it wasn't too crowded where we were, but we were in the shade and had glimpses through the trees of the road further down and could see quite a way up and down from where we were.

Actually, it turned out to be even better than we'd thought, because halfway through the afternoon, a storm hit us, and the very kind couple with a campervan opposite us invited me, Patrick and Sophie to sit in the front, because of Sophie, naturally. Meanwhile poor Sarah and Dave had to huddle under their newly purchased Tour brolly. Then, when the Caravane came through, the couple even stood outside themselves and handed in the various promo gifts they picked up. Sophie was very impressed with all the keyrings and crisps.

Fortunately the sun came out by the time the Caravane had gone through and it was beautiful again for when we saw the riders.
It all involved quite a few hours wait, but I reckon it's worth it. I love the build-up once you start to hear the helicopters, then get all the gendarmes on motorbikes and finally a glimpse of the first rider approaching.

Where we were, there was still a lone rider out in front, just ahead of Armstrong's group.

Tyler Hamilton looked like he was in pain, but then it was really good to see Stuart O'Grady out in front of the peloton.

By the time the main peloton came through, Sophie just couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. It was after 5pm by then though.

She didn't even wake up when we put her back on the bike, or even when Patrick had to stop and fix a puncture.
It was a lovely ride back down into Bagneres. So busy though - there were an incredible number of people up on that mountainside. Anyway, we finally got back home to the spaghetti bolognaise which was already simmering away in the slow-cooker, and a nice bottle of red.