We were able to watch a part of the internationally renown Tour de France bicycle race. Leg 16 started in Carcassonne.
The 101th running of the Tour de France’s stage 16 raced through Carcassonne literally a half block from our apartment. This stage was the longest of the 2014 race with 237.5 kilometers (148 miles) from Carcassonne traveling west up through the Pyrénées mountains and finishing in the village of Bagnères-de-Luchon near the Spanish border.
The Tour de France was actually two events for us. The first was a parade of sponsor’s floats, called the Tour de France Caravan at 8:45. Dozens of cleverly designed floats drove by throwing novelties, t-shirts, hats, and samples.
At 10:45 the racers (followed by their support vehicles) sprinted past as they circled the town and headed west. We got to see the traditional yellow jersey on Italian bicyclist Vincenzo Nibali at the head of the pack of the 22 teams. Although this was the mass start at the beginning of the race with careful riding through the narrow, twisting city streets, the entire pack of nearly 200 racers past us in less than 20 seconds. We were cheering for US racer Tejay van Garderen who was in sixth place overall. Thirty-four year old Australian Michael (‘Mick’) Rogers used his experience to climb the five peaks and power through the 237.5 kilometers (148 miles) to win this stage with a time of 6 hours, 7 minutes, 10 seconds.
After the chase cars, there were support trucks, motor coaches, and media mobile broadcast trucks.
We had a great morning experiencing in-person an event that has been exciting the world for over a hundred years. We are also anxious to learn if Vincenzo Nibali will be the overall winner when the Tour de France’s concludes this weekend.