Madame Marie prepared the evening before by packing her baguettes, a blanket and a thermos full of hot tea, an arrangement her and her friends made a long time ago. “There will never be a chance like this again,” she cheerfully claims their preselected spot above the ditch along the heart of the course. Wrapped in blankets and protected by umbrellas they are already tucking into their refreshments in anticipation.
The caravan owners arrive the day before the race with their temporary homes lining the route. In the morning, they start decorating their mobile abodes with flags, ad posters and banners while spending the rest of their time exchanging opinions with their ‘neighbours’ on who will take the next stage. Such discussions are more banter than benefit since predicting the winner of each stage is nearly impossible. Choosing and planning according to the stage profile and moving on the day before is always a better option, otherwise searching for the ideal spot is futile.
“Be early and have patience” has to be the fans creed when searching for dream spots since after making your claim, you’re in for the long haul. The only reward you get, besides the colourful gifts thrown from the advertising caravans, is the few seconds a bunch of cyclists pass by. Then you either move on or go home and wait for next year.
Although more than content with this year’s race, Madame Marie was waiting for almost ten hours before her ‘heroes’ quickly cycled past her eyes within the span of a minute. “Me and my friends had a great day and it was something I may never have a chance to see again. I am so excited right now,” she laughs while packing up. Then she headed out for a glass of wine while the caravans, already moving on to their next top spot, drove past her and her friends.
Text: Jan Hanzlík