We caught the Tour de France "live" in action on Sunday in Brasschaat, a belgian village not far from the Belgian-Dutch border. I am not a big fan of cycling and I have always wondered why people in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe are so crazy over wielrennen (speed cycling). All this fanfare and hoohah over the Tour de France was beyond my comprehension until Sunday. Now I can understand why so many people would brave the heat or the rain for hours on end just to show their support for the cyclists, never mind the doping scandals which always cast a dark shadow over the world of cycling.
We arrived at around 2.30pm in Brasschaat, about one and a half hours before hand. The cyclists were at that time, still on their way from Rotterdam and they had to cycle through a few villages in the Flanders region to Antwerp and then to the final destination, Brussels. On Monday, they would cycle through Spa in Wallonia (southern part of Belgium) to France.
The weather was fantastic, it was a bit cloudy and not too hot, and the street was packed with spectators. It was kind of a party mood, there were a few houses blasting with loud music and some people were sitting in chairs right in front of their houses, sipping cola or beer while enjoying the atmosphere. We got ourselves nicely settled under a shady spot and soon the advertising vans and police cars started passing by, you could see pretty girls waving and throwing freebies to the cheering crowd. We got a CARREFOUR cap for free, a keychain and a neck-band. Souvenirs compliment from the sponsors of Tour de France. The whole entourage was really big, lots of french, dutch, belgian cars, motorcycles and vans passing by, blasting loud music, waving and throwing freebies at us. I wonder why they didn't throw ice-creams or lollipops at us. Or even cans of beer. That would be nice. I was jealous of those people who were drinking beer right in front of me, and was hoping that an ice-cream van would pass by.....wishing thinking of cos!
After a while, people started getting bored and began inching their way to the middle of the road and sticking their necks out to see when the next entourage of advertising cars would arrive. Playful kids started crossing the road to and fro, some even cycled onto the roads, acting as if they were the Tour de France cyclists and the rest of the spectators just played along and cheered them on...it was all good fun.
When the real cyclists actually arrived, you could see and hear all the bustle and hustle and commotion way before their arrival. Loads of police cars and motorcycles arrived first to clear the way, then you could see helicoptors hovering like bees on top. First the leading pack of 3, and a minute later, another pack of 100 over cyclists. Zoom zoom zoom, in a few seconds, before I could react, they were all gone!!! They were far too fast, I couldn't even smell their sweat!!!
When the entourage was gone and the dust had settled (literally), we left and went home to catch the Tour de France on TV. Oh my god, they were faster than us. They had already arrived in Brussels and we managed to catch a glimpse on TV how the whole pack of them crashed among themselves and caused a massive jam just metres before the finishing line in Brussels. What a pity! Aiyah, they were all competing to see who get to shake hands with our King Albert, that was why they all crashed like a domino...hehehe. Well they didn't have to rush, the Belgian monarchy has not yet collapsed!!! ;p
Watching Tour de France "live" was really fun, we should do that again if we have the chance. As my hubby said, it is all a circus....so are we the monkeys or the spectators? :)