For a change of pace, I’m going to start at the end. Right after I dropped off the last of the winners, I got the following message on my phone: “Thank you for unforgettable memories. I still didn’t wholly process the experience, but you made my dream come true”. Which pretty much sums up the feelings of the rest of the group, as they reassured me repeatedly. I personally spent several hours talking my significant other to death after returning home, until I was gently silenced.
But the main credit for this has to go to the people behind the Škoda Hospitality Programme, who went above and beyond to make everyone in the group feel like they were kings of Le Tour for the day.
I could use a thousand words just to describe the convivial atmosphere and excitement at the welcome dinner. But things really got going the next morning when everyone pulled on the cycling clothes Škoda provided for us for our 1-hour ride with cycling legend Stephen Roche. And when I say legend I mean THE LEGEND! As you probably know, he is one of two riders in history who won Le Tour, Giro and World Championships in one year (Triple Crown of Cycling).
After the ride it was time to leave for a Village Départ in the Škoda Superbs assigned to us for the day. The cars even had our names printed on them to make us feel like true VIPs. On top of that, every one of our drivers was somehow connected to professional cycling, so our drivers included the likes of former British pro road race champion (and really funny guy) Tim Harris and John Robertson, who gave Chris Froome his first professional contract.
By this point the group was really starting to feel the pre-race atmosphere as we walked through the “pit lane.” It was the first time everyone could finally get close up to the bikes and team cars. Before the starting gun, however, we were on our way to the true highlight of the day. The HELICOPTER FLYOVER!
As soon as the peloton passed, we lifted off and soared over the countryside. We made one pass, then another pass above the peloton, swooping past the riders. From the expressions on the faces of our winners, it was obvious that this was something truly special for every one of us. (By the way, how do you know you’re definitely in France? When the female helicopter pilot wears open-toed shoes to make her nail polish peep out.)
After the flyover, our faithful cars and drivers took us to a prepared road-side barbeque before making our way along the rest of the course to the Club Tour de France right next to the 100-metre mark. By the time we got there, our arms were sunburned and tired from waving at the cheering crowds lining the road. But it was worth it to see the thrilling finish of the stage.
What else is there to say? Everyone had the time of their lives, met their heroes, experienced unbounded hospitality from the whole team, and enjoyed local cuisine in two luxury hotels. This year we are running a contest to win 5 spots in this awesome programme, so what are you waiting for? Enter it now!