The Tour de France. Wow! I never thought we would be here to see the Tour in person. And 2003 is a special year, because it's the 100th anniversary of the start of the Tour.
As part of the celebration of the anniversary, the Tour started with a time trial in Paris on the first day. The starting point was under the Tour Eiffel, and the route went along the Seine and through the city.
We watched the day's event at the last corner near the finish line. It was an eventful place to be, as Millar had problems with his chain there and ended up second for the day. If he hadn't had the problems, he would have probably won the time trial. Another rider (Beloki, I think) had a flat tire on this corner and finished the race without getting it changed.
Beloki was very exciting this year and challenged Lance. However, he had a bad spill in the mountains and had to retire from the race. When he crashed, Lance was right behind him. Lance had to go off the road and ride through the switchback to the road on the other side. He was lucky there wasn't a cliff there.
Lance was recovering from a stomach or intestinal virus of some sort and didn't do as well in the time trial as he would have liked to have done. Also, he wasn't going to wear the yellow jersey on the first day but was talked into it by race officials in honor of the 100th Tour.
On the last day, the overall winner of the race had already been decided. As part of the custom, the rider and his team lead the peleton on the first trip up and down the Champs-Elysees. We found a spot right near all of the team buses and had a good view of the day's events. Plus, we were able to see the riders as they came to the buses after the day's race.
When we arrived for the day's activities, we checked out all of the team buses.
When the peleton came into Paris, they turned off of Rue de Rivoli onto Place de la Concorde in front of the Jardin des Tuileries and the entrance to the Louvre. Team Postal is leading Lance and the peleton into Paris. You can see Lance in the yellow jersey of first place rider. By the way, my office is at the corner of Rue de Rivoli and Place de la Concorde, just out of the picture on the left .
After the race, we stayed near the Postal bus to see Lance and the team. He didn't stay there long because of commitments after the race.
Roberto Heras shared the happy day with his wife and baby.
Victor Pena had a great race. We were standing next to him while he was doing an interview.
The Crillon Hotel is the "in" hotel for all of the rich and famous. Robin Williams was one of the race fans staying there. Someone in the crowd said that Lance and the team stayed there, but I don't know if that's true. However, they were flying the Texas flag.
One of the most impressive parts of the race was the toughness of Tyler Hamilton (an American on the CSC team). On the second day of the race, he was involved in a bad spill and fractured his collarbone in two places. He endured the pain to finish the race, ending up fourth. Amazing! After the race on the last day, he was the last rider in the team area. He was there signing autographs and visiting with the fans long after everyone else had gone. Quite a guy! Maybe next year will be yours Tyler.
These two photos are also from Lance's website. If you would like to see more about him and the tour, go to his site. We are looking forward to next year's race already. I hope it is as exciting as this year's.