How? ... or "I am the corner of life

At the beginning I would like to quote such anecdote about the fly (it is about the fly changed in the singular number), which wanted to break through the window. That fly devoted all her life by hitting the flat glass, because one of the personal trainers told her that if you have the right amount of motivation and you do something long enough - you can do anything. Well, life is brutal - you can not do everything, and the basis is realistic goals. But how do you know what is realistic? I will not be a world champion in cycling anymore, I do not know what he did. However, I managed to do a few things that I could easily set for myself. I was invited last year by Merida to the Giro d'Italia, to the Route du Sud by Canyon, to Austria by Rose and ... to the Tour de France by Skoda. How did this happen? How, without a plan, I found myself in a VIP helicopter on the biggest race in the world, during one of the best stages? What made me ride in the car behind Rafał Majka, who won the stage that day?

Contrary to what everyone is saying, you do not need to have clear goals. You can do what you like and try to help your luck a bit. I succeeded because I met on my way highway - one day the phone rang with the offer, and the rest would work by itself. He helped the blog, helped cycling. So if you do something nice, do not be afraid to go to the media / portals, etc. Not to earn, not to be known and liked, just because it opens many doors. My advice: first we do, then write - even if it turns out that nobody will read it or go to the trash :-)

Here is the story of one of the most interesting days in my cycling life - a visit to the Tour de France.




Tour de France, or what?

22 teams consisting of almost 200 riders and 300 people with service. 3360km of the route, secured by 14,000 gendarmes and 9,000 policemen, running through three countries with 2,000 journalists. 4,500 people connected with the race, traveling every day for the players, THREE AND HALF MILLS of viewers. These are slightly abstract figures, which however show how a huge sporting event is the Tour de France. Watching one of the Grand Tour events live should be on the top positions of the "must-do" cycling list of each of us. Coming to France, the image of the race had a lot of relationships on television, friends' accounts, and numerous texts that run every year on the internet. I was expecting a similar experience to Giro d'Italia, which we watched in May, but what I saw exceeded my expectations. There is a reason why some say that "cycling is Tour de France"


Good morning, Mr. Stephen. Is it difficult to become a world champion?

5.30 am somewhere in a hotel in the south of France. I put on white cycling shorts and a green T-shirt and go to the parking lot where a bike is waiting for me. There are also a dozen other journalists and several cycling legends. Their sight reminds me immediately why white shorts are considered a faux pas - it is good that it is dark in Oloron-Sainte-Marie. We drive slowly and uncoordinated, like journalists. I manage, however, for a moment to catch up with Stephen Roche - a man who in 1987. he won Tour, Giro and World Championships (except Merckx). There are two problems with former pros: first, you can not recognize them. They look exactly the same as the average man with a tummy - which I see more than once in this day. Secondly: if you have your 3 minutes with the legend of cycling, what question do you ask? Is it hard to win or does it like cycling? A thousand ideas, everyone is pointless. So I'm going completely without an idea about the upcoming stage, that the mountains, that Rafał Majka, that it is still the middle of the night, and it gets indecently warm, that the Col du Tourmalet will be hard. 

Stephen probably has experience in answering rhetorical questions. He explains that Le Tour is Le Tour and nothing else is equal to him. Giro or Vuelta are big races, but it's not exactly the caliber of the race. It's hard for me to believe it, I was in Pink San-Remo the month before and it's hard to imagine that the cycling event could be bigger. About me naive ...




After breakfast, I meet Maurice, he is standing at the Superb, on which my name is stuck. We're going to Pau for the start of the stage. I quickly discover that the Tour de France paralyzes every area that is approaching: detours, traffic jams, ruthless police and generally high level of nervousness. I am landing in the middle of the competition town, to which I get through the magic pass. Honestly? It does not make an impression. In addition to the fact that there are a few more screens and a lot of free food, it looks like a town of a bigger MTB race in Poland. The closer to the start, the more the situation changes. Outside the fence there are crowds of people - really big crowds. I already have a stuffed backpack, because due to lack of assertiveness, they take everything that poorly dressed hostesses give me. I ate half a dozen cheeses - mold and yellow, I have a few hats (I'm probably the leader of every possible classification), some newspapers and I remember that basically I came here in a different shirt and without a backpack, so I had to get them. That's right, like everything else, they have the TdF logo on them. During the 3 weeks of the race, 14 million free giveaways are distributed. 




The surrounding car parks are beginning to fill up with service cars, team buses, and journalists. In the distance there is an advertising caravan consisting of over 150 cars. Perhaps the word "car" is used here too much, because I miss big baguettes, jellies, 2-meter fries, mascots, 3-meter yeti, two-story tire, giant bathtub duck and platforms carrying people who look like freshly recruited from the carnival rio. The column is about 12 kilometers, which, given the rather limited speed, blocks the road for over half an hour. I find out about it on my own skin a few hours later. It seems that it does not bother anyone. I do not know if I should say it out loud, but the caravan is the most interesting part of the race.




About the riders we will not meet


In contrast to Giro, the Great Loop is less friendly to fans. Buses of teams are usually separated from the public by a barrier guarded by gendarmes. The only chance for the autograph is luck, that one of the players will approach us, so taking a good place is so important. Without screens folded much earlier, there is no chance. Maybe it's the result of the second week of the race, maybe an exceptionally high pace this year, but the riders, for the most part, do not seem to pay attention to the fans. A short warm-up, signing the attendance list, earphones and disappear. It's a completely different approach than what I met. On the Route du Sud you could calmly approach Naira Quintana without a pass and talk to him (it is a pity that he speaks only Spanish - my tablecloth would only allow him to order 2 large beers). On Giro, it's a bit harder, but you can easily set yourself on the bus and not only that you get a signature, you can still grab water bottles / hats and visit these rushing hotels. Here it is not. Players are competitors, and fans are an addition. There are, of course, exceptions like Bryan Couqard, whom I usually see with signatures and posing for a selfie with fans shouting constantly "Bryan!" And aiming at him pieces of everything, on which you can get a valuable souvenir. They shout with the rest to everyone, if they do not know the name, there is a loud "Monsieur!". The atmosphere is completely different than at other races. It's like comparing the match of the 2nd league with the match of the national team. A completely different level of protection and nerves. I do not leave such an unpleasant feeling that if by chance I find myself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, I will spend the rest of my life locked up in Fort Boyard.




We leave about 30 minutes before the start of the race. It's just enough not to see the riders setting up at the start. Many of them are waiting until the last minute on buses. After the shouts it is easy to see which of the race leaders just revealed their presence. However, even Chris Froome does not receive such applause as the French riders. Everything is scheduled for the minute. Just before the start, they drive up to the Power Bar tent and grab some gels and bars and ride. All my idea of ​​magical nutrition and special nutrients disappears. They take a suple, which each of us can buy in the store.




About a car that mirrors nothing (seriously)


We're moving the VIP Skoda car - the new Superb that is presented to millions of people this way. The tour is supported by Skoda for the 12th time and in addition to our vehicle, there are 249 other cars from this brand on the route. We drive fast, very fast: against the current, cutting corners. It is risky because it threatens with a mandate. Yes, drivers on the Tour de France can get a ticket for a quick ride. This happens quite often, but is nevertheless included in the risk pool. The car stopped by the police often loses chances of getting close to the riders, and what a pleasure to ride in the 19th row - a bit like

in traffic. In the morning I ask Maurice if he is learning the route by heart or loading it for navigation - I did not understand his answer then, which was limited to a smile. He knows her as an average TV viewer: profile and key moments. Possibly shortcuts, during which you can save kilometers and bypass the peloton if necessary. How pointless was this question I am already aware of in the first kilometers. The route is secured in every place, marked in every possible way, and the number of supporters along the way makes it difficult to stray from it, even deliberately, without deducting anyone. I'm not sure if there was a fragment on 180 kilometers where I would not see football fans. Their number, of course, grows drastically around cities and driveways. This is also surprising, considering that it is Wednesday - noon. As soon as we move, Maurice warns me not to expose the camera through the window - the audience really likes to appropriate the equipment, and stopping on the route and trying to get it back is not an option. Apparently, not one camera and phone changed the owner in this way. 




Initially, we flee from the peloton to make it to the makeshift airstrip. Most of the stages are moved, apart from a television helicopter, by several machines presenting the Tour to guests who received special invitations. We have a chance to get into this group. We make the stop on the rugby pitch, from which the pilot takes us, blowing up the previous group. We are waiting for at least a dozen competitors to pass, so that we know how to go. The first four passes - escape, on the lead Michał Kwiatkowski. That he discovers it when I look at the pictures taken. Similar to this year in San Remo, my sense of recognition Flower is some delayed, even though it has a shirt that can not be missed. My picture is out of focus. Great, probably the only chance in life for a photo of a Pole leading TdF, and I do not hit.




Then the peloton and countless number of vehicles:




On the adventure in the rhythm of the Flight of the Valkyries from the Time of the Apocalypse


Every day, several helicopter transfers are carried out. What does the biggest cycling race in the world look like from the air? Exactly like in relationships, only without telephoto lenses. You can see a beautiful landscape and small dots moving in a line like ants. However, it allows you to see the magnitude of this event, the multitude of supporters and how little space our heroes occupy in relation to the column of cars. The view combined with the panorama of the Pyrenees and Col du Tourmalet to which they are heading that day is amazing. Probably, one of those that he remembers for the rest of his life.



It is not the case that the cyclists are hard to see in the picture below. Compared to "looking with your eyes" you can see them very well, because I have a zoom in the camera:




However, the change of sight to a different place compensates for this profession a bit:




In the next meadow, we return to the car and move between the riders. Race radio, which is used by each driver, says that the difference between the escape and the main group is longer than 3 minutes - this means that we can enter between them. Only a few cars can overtake the peloton, so if we accidentally missed the gap, we would have to pull backwards by the end of the day. Our driver begins maneuvers, thanks to which we are just a moment behind a few personal escapes.

What happens outside television cameras is indescribable. Hundreds of cars, scooters and other vehicles that fight for the best position. The bumper tapes are on the agenda. The situation looks more or less like in Puławska street 40 minutes before the important Polish game, only a steady pace around 30-50km / h is maintained instead of the traffic jam. I would not go there with my car - it's some chaos and massacre.




About the director, whom I do not understand and which takes away my toys


Most messages from the race director are given in French. As for French, thanks to "Wonderful Years" I can only ask if anyone needs some butter, so I understand nothing at all. The most important information is repeated in English, but very briefly. In total, I do not know anything - the internet in the mountains does not pick up, so the tablet with the report lands in the clipboard. It is only after a moment that I combine the facts that Rafał, who is repeated every now and again, is Rafał, who escapes this day. For a moment, we're going directly behind him, not yet knowing that it will probably be the most important day of Poland for this year's Tour de France. Sensors in the car squeak, suggesting that we are dangerously close to other vehicles - from every possible side. We are moving forward to release probably the best place of the day. I do not know anything again. We have a radio, but the number of people who have to communicate with him to get any information is long enough that it is not worth trying (drivers are not able to contact directly on the main channel).

A moment later a red Skoda comes to us - it is the director of the race. Probably the most important person in France in July. It unambiguously informs me that I have just taken the last photo from GoPro during this ride. Due to the large number of accidents with selfixes and ubiquitous cyberspace sticks, using GoPro is forbidden.




The driveway starts. There is no longer a government of people next to the route - three rows of them are formed, and sometimes even more. An infinite number of campers. We move like Moses, while the supporters move apart to make way for the ride, and then narrow the route to a minimum. Everyone dressed up, colorful, equipped with gadgets. Under normal circumstances, they would be considered insane. It is they, and not dangerous, congresses that pose the greatest threat, but they are part of this sport. They can not be surprised: they spend a minimum of half a day standing in the place to cheer on their favorites, whom they only see for a short while. Many of them came there with bicycles or family cars, next to which they set up tables and organize picnics. Security is a key element here. The gendarmes have the opinion of people with a zero sense of humor and any attempt to disturb the peace is associated with serious consequences.




About farting in the crowd of supporters


The fans provide an amazing atmosphere - they create this race. Although we are moving by a car completely unrelated to any of the teams, they wave and greet. In the car I discover that apart from the only officially approved sound signal, there are many other, much more interesting ones installed. When the cartoon sounds of "Heey Seeeexy!" Come out from the loudspeakers or the always-funny fart of the fart, bored with a little wait, the crowd begins to resemble a teenage audience at the concert of their idol. Rolling in this way at a speed of several kilometers per hour, we reach the top and our escape begins.




About riders who rush like rockets and cars in a slip


On that day the computer of Mark Cavendish showed over 100km / h. It would be a great awkwardness if one of the cyclists caught us at the congress, therefore we are accelerating again. If the helicopter flight was an extreme adventure, I do not know how to call this convention. Our driver adheres to the principle that the wheels should be squeaking at the exit, but do not slip yet. There are not many fans on serpentines, not only that the cyclists can be seen very briefly, this is not a safe place. They realize this for sure, when we beat each other next to them. I can see how some of them are beginning to wonder which way to escape. I would not know myself. I'm starting to count airbags and a chance to survive a fall from a dozen or so gauge.

We reach the finish line about 40 minutes before the winner - I can watch the last moments on a big giant screen, because the best places at the finish are of course already occupied for a long time.




Everything indicates that Rafał will win this day. I decide to do everything possible to see how it crosses the line. I go somewhere between the fences, somewhere between zones to which I do not have passes, and somehow around. It turns out that despite such a large protection - it is possible. I go to a narrow place of photographers whose lenses require separate tripods. Me and my monkey and stick with GoPro.




About the crowd, like after the Crocksy and traffic jam paralyzing half of the region


I try to break through the crowd of journalists after the finishing line, but I fail to catch our winner. Although the zone with the finishing line is strictly limited, a multitude of reporters creates an unviable wall. The exhausted riders are trying their best to briefly summarize what has been going on for the last few hours and then flee to the buses. Some of them still have a lot of driving before they rest in peace before the next stage ... and yet another ... and more. After all, it's 3 weeks. I do not know how their regeneration works, but at the finish line they look like they have to graze.




Maurice suggests that we should go immediately to the car, not even waiting for decoration. By "suggesting" I mean the direct order that we run to the car before the decoration ends. This is the only chance to get a dinner at the hotel. We drive maybe 20 meters and when we overcome the first corner I already understand this rush. A string of service and journalistic cars stretches to the horizon. A half-hour stop awaits us, during which we do not move about a centimeter. In the Eurosport car, standing next to us, I see Sean Kelly - apparently it must be so, everyone is waiting. I'm going to take a picture of myself and ask some pointless question. Although 3 minutes earlier I was reading about him in the book "The Rules", I can not come up with anything interesting. I must think of a set of universal questions for the task of any person. Cool dude, but I do not remember what we were talking about.



The evacuation process begins, we all move together. The whole caravan of cars is coming back from the top along the same road (probably the only possible one) under police escort. This is to shorten the time that teams need to get to other hotels, often one hour's drive from the finish. All access roads within the first few tens of kilometers are blocked again, and any attempt to break the vehicle unauthorized to the column ends with an immediate stop at the roadside. We are witnesses of downloading from the route motorcyclists, cyclists, mother with a pram - everyone. Everyone will also have a pleasant conversation with the gendarmes.


It is after 8:00 PM, thermometers still show a lot of over 30 degrees, we are tired, but no one dares to mention it loudly, remembering what players had to experience that day. In 10 hours, drivers will set off again and once again they will be forced to stay at full concentration throughout the day. However, not only they travel the daily tour of Tour: hundreds of campers, which we saw along the way will also move to the next stage, to be able to cheer for the fighters again fighting for the yellow shirt they dream of. In this way, three weeks of the largest, annual, sports event in the year.


Was it worth to go to the Tour de France?

Well, if you ask me if it is worth smoking this 2000km to see racing cyclists, I will say briefly - in my opinion: no. There are a lot of other races where interacting with players is much easier. You can then approach the contestants, talk, look at the equipment. Rooting for them comes down anyway, in any case to dozens of seconds.

On the Tour, however, it is worth choosing to see the magnitude of this event. To eat a baguette with the locals in the morning, set up with a hundred others in the driveway 7 hours earlier, shout, watch the report on a small TV, wave the flag, watch the endless parade of strange vehicles, see our idol overcoming the driveway, and then go back to traffic jams home. Let's be honest though: it sounds a bit like an idea for an abnormal weekend ... another one: ->