Well, we had another awesome day on the Tour de France. The actual race got underway for real today with stage one: Rotterdam to Brussels. We left Antwerp on bike, wearing our Custom Getaways “kits.” For you non-cyclists, a kit is the outfit bikers wear. We have jerseys and shorts that show our group name, as well as other sponsors. You’ll see the outfits in the pictures below.
Our group of twelve riders wove through the streets of Antwerp until we eventually arrived on the actual closed part of the course. The actual Tour peloton was behind us by about two hours but the tailgate-like parties were well underway all along the course. It was an amazing feeling to ride along cobbled roads, through cities like Mechelen and Edegem, with the old churches and landmarks all around us.
We were scheduled to cross the actual finish line in Brussels at 2:30, and because we had some detours in Antwerp, we were running behind schedule. Those of us who are slower riders were going to have a hard time making it on time, so three of us jumped into our van and were shuttled along the closed course via car while following the fastest riders. With 1km to go, we all joined together again on bike and crossed the finish line with crowds cheering all along the way. After podium photos we changed out of our cycling garb and into street clothes.
Today we had access and a tour of the “technical” area of the Tour de France. This means that we went behind the scenes and saw where the crews who produce the event work and live during the three week race. We also got up close and personal with the media area and we were able to walk right up to the sets and equipment that bring the Tour to over 100 countries across the globe. Broadcasters from China to Columbia and from the USA to Serbia were set up in this area.
From there we were escorted to the rail of the course, right at the finish line. Today’s race was a sprint finish because it was flat and straight for the last kilometer.
After 223.5km the race came down to a sprint. And, because the final approach had some tricky turns coming into the final stretch, there were several crashes that took some riders down. Because of that, the entire peloton received the same time, which means the overall results (called the General Classification or GC) remained the same. Fabian Cancellara, my favorite, is still in yellow and Lance Armstrong is still in 4th place.
Because we had such special access we were able to take some very close up photos of the winners while they were giving press interviews following the race. See just how close in the photos of the yellow jersey, Fabian Cancellara, below.
From there we had just a short walk to our bus and a 45 minute drive to our new hotel in Gembloux, which is just south of Brussels. Tomorrow should be another fun day, with access to the Start Village and another ride. Today Steve rode about 38 miles, while I did about 28 before jumping in the van. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!