Got a few good hours sleep last night, which was a good thing, since I was anticipating the next few nights would be spent in the car. Well day 3 was a sort of flat stage, 178km from Bourgoin-Jallieu to Aubenas. So I figured I would go to see the start, then skip the rest of the stage, and focus on getting down to Mont Ventoux for tomorrows stage. My plan was to get to Mont Ventoux by mid afternoon and hopefully get up the mountain and sleep in the car.
First priority of the morning was find the closest Carrefour supermarket (this place was a life saver on my trip), stock up on water, and non-perishable food that I could keep in the car and live off of for the next couple days until my flight to Paris Sunday AM. So I made my first stop at a Gas station, it was at a Carrefour station. Stopped at the pump, and had read before the trip that you typically fill & then pay and look for "sans plumb 95" (unleaded), so I filled up. Then proceeded to walk up to what I thought was the little shop where I would pay. I looked in the door, to find the place was totally trashed, as my heart started racing I thought the place had been ransacked & robbed. It took a second or 2 to notice that it looked like it had been abandoned for years. I thought it was a little unlikely that they would be giving gas away for free, so I looked around and saw a tiny booth at the exit of the gas station with a person sitting in it. Felt a little stupid, walked over to the booth and gave the attendant my credit card. With that taken care of walked back to the car, there was a car behind mine with an old couple in it throwing there hands up in the air and gesturing. I learned the procedure is to fill up, then pull your car up to the exit booth and pay.
I parked and did some shopping at the Carrefour, stocked up on fruit, bread, sandwiches and tried to ask where I could find peanut butter. Turns out this region was where I encountered the least number of english speaking folks. They found the 1 person in the store who spoke some english, and I tried to explain to her what I was looking for "peanut butter, like a peanut butter and jelly/jam sandwich". She looked at me as if I was crazy, but eventually she understood what I was looking for, beurre de cashuette. When I wnet to check out at the register I found out I was supposed to weigh the fruit myslef and tell the cashier how much it was. She was real helpful and went back and did it herself. A couple older gents in line behind me made some comments, and one of them said to me "Engrish?". All in all they were very helpful and understanding.
My shopping experience complete I proceeded to drive to the start of todays stage. The GPS did a fine job getting me in the area. I spotted a lot of people parking in a field with not much else around, so figured this had to be close. I parked, and started walking the same direction as everyone else. I could soon hear the voices and noise of the start area. A pretty sizeable crowd was there already about an hour before the start. I watched the rider sign-in and intro's, and tried to get a spot near the rail where it was only a couple layers deep. The race leadout caravan started to rollout, followed by the start, and the huge caravan that follows the race. Once again with my point-and-shoot digital camera it was easier to just hold it over my head in movie mode and capture a few short video clips.
Lance signs in.
After the start I marched back to the car and punched Mont Ventoux into the GPS, and set on my way. Unfortunately the GPS route was the same route as the race for several miles, so that held me up for a good hour or so. It was a long drive down to Mont Ventoux, much longer than I anticipated, and there were a couple congested areas along the way. It was late afternoon before I finally saw Ventoux off in the distance, there was no mistaking it, fairly flat plains with the big bald Giant of Provence sitting in the middle.
It took a good hour or so from when I first noticed the mountain until I was finally getting near the base, Carpentras then Bedoin, it was about 6PM. Lots of traffic, and it was like a huge parking lot slowing creeping forward on the D974 a few feet at a time. The side of the road was already lined with cars parked for the night and the tailgate parties were already in full swing. I was just barely at the base of the mountain where the road started going up. After about a hour of this, there was a policeman directing people to turn off, the road up the mountain was already closed. So I turned right on a side road and parked roadside in a vineyard.
I thought to myself this looks like a good spot, fairly quiet, I should be able to get some sleep, get up early, and start hiking up the mountain. Well my quiet little vineyard filled up pretty quickly, and cars continued to drive through all night long filling in any space available, even at the risk of maybe not being able to get out again. I thought to myself these people are nuts... isn't it great.... being surrounded by a million other people from all over the world who share your love and obsession of cycling. There was singing and parties going on all night long, in some languages I didn't understand. All I knew was these people are having a GOOD time. I spent a while talking with a Frenchman. It was his first time watching the Tour at Mont Ventoux, but he had biked over it several times. He had his bike with him, and was going to attempt to ride up the following morning.
Beautiful sunset at the base of Mont Ventoux.
Eventually I figured I would try and get a couple hours sleep in prep for the long 20km hike up Ventoux tomorrow AM, so I retired to my comfy Nissan Micra for the evening.