Story and Photos by Micaela Hobbs
As it has done for the last 35 years, the final stage of
the Tour de France 2010 played out on one of the most famous and impressive
boulevards in the world - the Champs Élysées. And this year’s finish was as
exciting as the previous three weeks racing had been, with hordes of
spectators lining the streets of Paris to witness this amazing spectacle.
The peleton heads up the famous
Champs Élysées towards the finish line.
With a frenzied sprint to the finish line, to secure not
only the stage win but to contend the wearer of the green jersey, I, like
many others, found myself holding my breath, heart pounding, clinging to a
tree with feet balanced precariously on the metal barriers to get the best
view for my photo shots, and willing the British sprinter, Mark Cavendish,
to execute his now famous sprint to cross the finish line first.
Witnessing Mark’s victories is like witnessing magic. He
is tucked in among the peleton (main group of riders) not really visible to
the untrained eye, until seconds before the finish when he bursts out from
the bunch like a missile and flies across the line several bike lengths
ahead of the other contenders. He appears unstoppable, and unstoppable he
was on Sunday, July 25, securing his fifth stage win in this year’s tour and
his second last stage Tour victory on the Champs Elysees. He did not,
however, manage to win the green jersey from Alessandro Petacchi of Italy
for best overall sprinter, although there is little doubt that he will be
the proud wearer of it before too long!
Lance Armstrong, left, bowed out
after this year’s Tour having won the event a record seven times during his
The winner of this year’s tour had been decided in the
final mountain stage in the Pyrenees a few days before, so as there were no
crashes or technical problems on the last day Alberto Contador crossed the
line on the Champs Elysees holding up two fingers and his thumbs to signify
his three Tour victories over the last few years. His battle for first place
over the last few weeks with the young Andy Schleck won off with Andy coming
in second overall and also winning, for the third time, the white jersey for
best young rider under 25 yrs of age.
Lance Armstrong’s team, Radio Shack, won the best team
prize and left Lance retiring from the Tour (for the second time ) and
facing new allegations for previous doping irregularities. His final day of
the Tour was also full of controversy as the Radio Shack team held up the
last stage into Paris by 15 minutes as they attempted to wear unofficial
jerseys advertising Lance’s charity Livestrong and expressing their support
for millions of cancer sufferers in the world.
Although this was not to be Lance’s Tour, there is no
doubt Lance is an amazing athlete and I felt privileged to witness his last
tour and to brush shoulders with him while mingling with the riders after
the finish. Wearing the Livestrong t-shirt and with my privileged invitation
into the riders enclosure, I managed to capture photos of some of these
athletes and enjoyed checking out and drooling over their amazing bikes -
the Bugattis and Ferraris of the biking world! A once in a life time
experience for me.
This year’s Tour will go down as one of the most
dangerous in recent history, with many early accidents and nearly half the
field crashing in Stage 2 when the roads were covered with oil. The race
also included long sections of cobblestones, which added to the peril.
As a partner in Crouching Tiger Cycling Tours, based in
Chiang Mai, I have been in France for the last two weeks marketing our road
cycling tours, but also lucky enough to follow various stages of the Tour de
France, both in the Pyrenees and also on the Champs Elysees last Sunday. The
excitement of the final stage of this year’s Tour was intensified by an
invitation from Nissan, a major sponsor of Lance Armstrong’s Radio Shack
team, to join the Team’s prerace champagne celebrations, and to witness, for
one last time, the infamous Lance Armstrong from the privileged vantage
point of the Radio Shack stand at the finish line. And what a view!
Witnessing the cyclists from close up and mixing with
everyone from the cycling world was a huge experience. These are the most
awesome athletes and whatever their final position, they all deserve
Spain’s Alberto Contador celebrates
his third Tour de France in Paris, Sunday, July 25.