Every day doesn’t work out as planned. So, with a heavy heart, you decide to skip a stage. Since you want to be sure to find a parking spot near the Alps stages, you have to be there on the day before. Your destination is the finish line of the 14th stage, Risoul, 1855 metres above sea level.
When you eventually arrive at the spot the night before the stage starts, you realize that Risoul is more than hopelessly stuffed with people and cars. The police are waving you away even before you actually enter the town if you don’t get there on time. Finding some other place is an option, but turning and looking for any patch of level ground that is not taken already is most likely futile.
It starts to get dark, so you stop next to make a bonfire, when suddenly you don’t care anymore and this search for survival clearly turns into an obvious party. Some guy from Guadeloupe, named Joel, is oddly in charge of it and he takes one look at you, grabs a machete, and chops a spot for you in the roadside weeds. After making sure he helps you park, he then offers you a shot of Carribean rum.
There is a small TV in front of his van playing dance hits while everybody is dancing and you feel obliged and honoured to join them with a sense of relief. You finally have a spot to sleep on! It doesn‘t matter anymore that your car is parked on a 45 degree slope and you are a kilometer away from the finish.
It is way past midnight, most of the people are gone, and only Joel and a few true believers still dance tirelessly, waving to every truck and service car dragging the equipment up the hill. The trucks respond with their horns and that’s the last memory before waking up broken, sticky and with an aching head. There is nowhere to wash yourself and your food supply is low, once again.
Like all great parties, the morning is an invite to chat to others about who has a chance today. The winner, or even who won‘t make it through the Alps and the Pyrenees, is every fan’s topic of social conversation. In the afternoon, it‘s time to rush to your car, spray a message on the road for your friends to see you made it and follow the advertising caravans as they drive on to the next stage.
Around five in the afternoon, the first rider shows up at the bottom of the hill. You scream like a madman, helping him tackle the hill. This is why you took the trip more than thirty-five hours ago!
Text: Jan Hanzlík