A lot of riders crashed, including the man himself – Chris Froome. The overall winner of this year’s Tour de France managed to get back on the bike again and chase the Tête de la Course. But to the delight of all French fans, one man was just too far away. Romain Bardet gave the hosting nation its first stage victory in stage 19 of the 103rd Tour de France, and the crowd went absolutely wild.
Looking back at the 19th stage, it seems it kind of had it all, and I’m really glad our winners were there to witness it.
“You’ve just won a place in the Škoda Hospitality Programme on the Tour de France!” said the e-mail received by our five winners, and according to their own words, they just couldn’t believe it. “It must be some kind of mistake”, they said to me even as we were having the welcome drink at our hotel overlooking the white peaks of Mont Blanc.
But soon things got very real. Later that night our winners met our celebrity drivers Tim Harris and John Robertson who drove them around during the whole stage, and even the triple crown victor Stephen Roche, whom they met again the next morning when he took them out for a ride.
The people from the Škoda Hospitality Programme went above and beyond to make everyone in the group feel like they were the kings of Le Tour that day, and it were the small touches, like your name on the Škoda Superb car, that made all of our winners feel like true VIPs.
Before the start of the stage, we were driven to the Village Départ, where everyone started to really feel the pre-race atmosphere. And as we walked through the “pit lane”, the perks of being driven by John Robertson and Tim Harris really started to show. Not only are they really funny guys, but they also seem to know literally everyone. Soon our winners found themselves talking to pros and some even got the selfies they always wanted.
“Look, it’s André Greipel! ” said Volker, our winner from Germany, and in absolute delight showed us the photo with his national hero.
Isn’t André the nicest guy in the peloton?
We had to keep moving, however, to stay in front of the peloton, so our cars soon rolled out. The drivers stopped next to a lovely meadow occupied only by one French RV and the couple next to it. They were somewhat disturbed by our fleet of Škoda Superbs, but that was nothing in comparison with all the helicopters that started flying and landing there a moment later. The true highlight of the day was finally here. The HELICOPTER FLYOVER.
We let the peloton go past with glasses of champagne in our hands and jumped in the helicopters right after. The pilots lifted off and soared over a nearby lake and the lovely countryside. We made one pass, then another pass above the peloton, and from the expressions on the faces of our winners, it was obvious that this was something truly special for every one of us.
“It was absolutely unbelievable!” said the guys right after we landed with wide smiles that stuck with them till the end of the day.
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 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, enjoyed local cuisine in a lovely hotel and brought home some unforgettable memories.
There will be another contest next year, so be sure to take part in it. Our winners from this year certainly will.