So this is where it all starts, Düsseldorf.
Three weeks of craziness, 21 stages and anything’s possible. Who would have thought that last year we would have seen Chris Froome running up a hill and jumping onto a bike designed for a child. As I’ve always said there’s never a dull moment in Le Tour.
It’s been ten years since the German broadcasters stopped broadcasting the Tour de France but now it’s back. I have romantic thoughts of people rushing across the border to find a TV to get their daily fix of the riders. The last German Grand Depart was in 1987 and now they’re ready to party, so hold onto your caps, get ready for the breakaways, the crazy downhill stunts and fingers crossed for some echelons. I love the buzz of the buildup of the grand tour waiting for the anticipation of what the next three weeks will hold.
The first big thing for the riders is the team presentation, apparently it’s disliked by most of the riders who would prefer to be lying on their beds and playing with their phones, but for the fans it’s a great opportunity to see the riders close up, checking out the new kits and what new bikes are on the scene.
I take up a position with friends on a bend on a short slope with my Welsh flag proudly attached to the barrier billowing in the wind coming off the Rhein.
I have to add that this position had other benefits as well, namely a bar, an ice cream seller and more importantly a public toilet, all the important things when following a cycling event.
So the excitement is building, the tour has come to town and the city of Düsseldorf has come to life. By night the Rheinturm tower has a special light display which is fit for a champion.
Stage 1 – Saturday 1st July 2017 and the individual time trial, 14 KM of a city centre course.
We had walked the course the previous day and it was narrow in bits and crossed various junctions resulting in a selection of white lines. So it wasn’t great in the morning to wake up to the sight of heavy rain.
Making our way early, we headed to the team coaches who were parked up neatly at the start. As we passed Quick Step Floors they were making an impressive patio for the riders to warm up on, it’s always an advantage to have a floors company as your main sponsor.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Team Sky performance manager, Rod Ellingworth. He stated that the they were prepared for rain and that it had been the forecast for weeks. I asked how everyone was feeling and he confirmed that the team was in a good place and everyone was ready to fight for yellow jersey.
Making our way to the finish area it was very clear that this rain was in for the day and jokingly I made a comment that Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas are going to be ok, it’s always wet in Wales.
Positioned just after the finish line and opposite the post interview/hot seat we took our places watching the efficient organisation of Le Tour de France. Hours until the racing started we kept ourselves entertained by watching the camera man complaining that the branches on a tree covered the finishing gantree and immediately a wagon and a man with a chain saw proceeded to trim the tree, a job that would have taken weeks at home by our local council.
The power of the tour, let the racing begin.
One by one with a minute between, the riders take to the course splashing through the puddles that were increasing by the hour. Our hopes that no one would get hurt in a fall quickly disappears when the Spanish Movistar rider Alejandro Valverde crashed hard and it later transpired that his tour is over with a broken knee and ankle. They say that it’s part of racing but it’s sad that all that time and preparation has gone to waste. The rain continued to pour down making an unhappy group of photographers trying to protect their cameras with a selection of items.
Sunday the 2nd July 2017 – Stage 2
It was one of those crazy days that when you booked the trip months ago and searched the train times for Düsseldorf to Liege you muttered the words, “yes there’s loads of train and we should get there before the end of the race”
So having paid the bill, suitcase in hand we made our way to the closest section of the course to the railway station and picked our spot, of cause it was hours before but it was an important morning, a Welsh man in yellow.
With my Welsh flag in place and a hand crafted sign, I was ready.
Monday 3rd July 2017 – Stage 3
Almost the end of my Tour De France trip today a trip to the Belgium town of Verviers, a pretty town which had been totally taken over by the Tour de France. The sun was shining and it was going to be a hot ride on a bike for their 212.5 KM race to Longwy. Positioned next to the start line we watched and waited for the riders to come together.
The caravan made its way along the road, with energetic young people throwing out key rings and sweets, advertising is such an important part of the tour, it couldn’t survive without the support and the money.
It’s chaotic at the start with the press wanting to get the best picture, Geraint Thomas still in yellow, Taylor Phinney looking proud in the Polka Dot Jersey, Marcel Kittel in green and Stefan Küng from BMC in the White jersey.
As the riders line up, I’m able to get G’s attention and he smiles and gives me a wink, I know that he’s going to be ok, he looks very proud and professional in yellow, another day of Welsh cycling history.
And then with a drop of the flag they were off, to continue with their tour of France.
Now it was time for home with a slightly longer trip of over 500 miles back to home and work. With the rest of the tour being watched on TV.
Stay safe boys, I miss you already.
About the Author: Mavis Evans is a full time police officer and a full time cycling fan. She works as a volunteer on the Tour of Britain and the tour Series as well as completing a volunteer role on the Revolution track series as part of a travel logistics team collecting riders from the airport and delivering them and their bikes safely to their hotels. Her passion for cycling has also meant that she has ridden the sportives of Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. Find her on twitter at @MaveEvans and Instagram Mave1337
Photographs taken by @susie_222