**This is very photo-heavy and long, so I’m going to divide it up into 2 separate posts. Look for part 2 next week!**
I’ve been watching cycling from the wrong seats all this time. After our incredible day as special guests of the Tour de France, I will never again see cycling as anything but thrilling. Since moving to Belgium, Mathieu has been able to indulge in his passion for cycling regularly, and I’ve been going along and learning. To be honest, I didn’t really care that much about the sport, but I loved the atmosphere on the sidelines and taking photos of the action. So we were both very excited to win a contest which would place us right in the middle of the action of the biggest race of the year.
We headed downtown to the Parc de Bruxelles bright and early that morning to check out the festivities before the departure. A flash of our special VIP badges and we were in the departure village. This is where the press, special guests and sponsors hang out, do interviews and prepare for a long day of following the race. Fresh fruit, coffee, cereal, fromage blanc, cookies, cakes, tartes and other snacks were available for guests to enjoy. Musicians and clowns kept everyone entertained and amused. Mathieu was even able to get photos and an autograph of a few retired cyclists whom he recognized, and we spotted the man of the moment, Eddy Merckx, several times, always surrounded by a crush of admirers, handlers and press. We took full advantage of the buffet then met up with our driver, Serge, who just so happened to be the French cycling champion in 1989.
Pushing through the crowd past security, we got to flash our badges again (fun!) to get into the team area. We lingered by the buses a bit, but not many cyclists were out yet. Since we would be riding in one of the commissioner’s cars, we needed to be ready to leave before the start of the race. This meant that we’d miss most of the cyclists signing the book before the start. We saw a few, including the world champion, Cadel Evans, before getting in the car to go.
Next week, check back for part 2!