Squadra di Vecchi Tori

Tour Notes – Sunday 17 July – Feed-station – some philosophical observations and other matters by kiwicyclist
July 18, 2011, 7:19 am
Filed under: Biased Generalisations


As I mentioned in this morning’s post, today was a non-riding day for half our touring group and a great opportunity to take part in a stage as the locals do.
We left the beautiful city of Toulouse at 8.00 am in gently falling rain and heavy skies to travel further into Provence towards Avignon. Like the riders in the Tour itself, today was a transition day for us as well with a short 2 night stay in Avignon beckoning and only a short ride option on offer for those who felt so inclined. We were aiming for the town of Cessenon Sur Orb which was where the feed-station was located.
The countryside heading to our destination is fairly typical of Provence – rolling hills, scrubby dry riverbeds and miles of vineyards punctuated by picturesque small old sandstone villages where the main road twisted and turned right through the centre of town.
As we made our way through to Cessenon the topography gradually became more undulating and we noticed increasing numbers of cars and campervans parked on the side of the road leading up to the small cat 4 KOM climb.
What struck me looking out the window directly into the colorful roadside crowd on the narrow roads was an example of what the French might describe as joie de vie. Under cold, threatening skies there were people of all ages out on the side of the road from around 10am onwards parked up with deck chairs and picnic tables set up, normally with a spread of French bread, cheese and preserved meats and a bottle of vin de table or an aperitif within easy reach. And bear in mind the race proper would not come through for around another 5 hrs!
As I said to our tour guide it is remarkable to consider from an antipodean context where we spend so much time rushing, rushing, rushing through life, the willingness of ordinary local people here to drive out into the countryside, park up for most of a day, enjoy good simple food and wine en plein air, for the simple opportunity to watch a bike race scream past at 40 or 50ks/hr in the space of 15minutes. That sums an appreciation of simple things for me.
My other reflection on this notion of joie de vivre came over lunch. We parked the bus just near the start of the feed-station on the outskirts of town and Mark and I wandered back into the village centre to find somewhere to have a coffee and lunch. We came upon what would be the main village square where the local Tabac had set up an outdoor restaurant and had the Tour playing on a large screen connected to a laptop and some speakers.

Again locals and tourists alike sat under the tarpaulin enjoying entrecote et frites washed down with tap beer soaking up the atmosphere. Many of the houses had 2 storied shuttered windows overlooking the main race route through town and there were people leaning out taking advantage of the great views. It seemed as if the whole town had come out to enjoy the color and spectacle of the great bike race – people lolled about inside in the bar watching the TV coverage or sat outside smoking and relaxing, not particularly fussed at the slow and overworked service coming from the waiting staff.

Down the main street again picnic tables and chairs were pulled into front yards and it seemed to me that the locals were enjoying the excuse for a leisurely lunch and catch-up with neighbours and friends with the race being an incidental but necessary ingredient.
This is part of the beauty of travelling in the French countryside chasing the world’s greatest sporting event. We occasionally glimpse into the lives of local people enjoying an easier pace of life where simple things like good food, excellent wine, companionship and community appear to matter – where the art of le velo and the progress of your favorite rouleur is of great significance.
So to the locals in Provence I have seen today chapeau for your joie de vivre.

On the road:

Our drivers:

Ricard mixed with water


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great photos Stu. But how about you make like a lawyer and get the spelling of towns right. It upsets me to see you this careless.

Not much riding getting done back here – but all hopes are with Cadel. He has done everything right so far!

Comment by marcusoc


Great reading and snaps. Sounds like you are remembering to stop and stare!

Cheers Poz

Comment by Poz

Hey Stu

Have just read this post over a long mach in a very wet, cold and windy Melbourne….me, envious, never! 😉

Love the photos, looks likenyour having a blast. Enjoy the rest of your time on Le Tour.


Comment by stujohnston

You’ll have to come and do it Stu – its incredible here. The Tour itself is a complete circus – coming off the mountains with cars, motorbikes and fearless riders is crazy – we have done a heap of it. Catch up back in Melbourne in a month. Stu

Comment by kiwicyclist

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