The Tour de France races through Manigod, La Clusaz, St Jean de Sixt and ends at Le Grand Bornand later today. I took this photo this morning while the course is being set up. Traffic is only allowed to flow until midday, and already the crowds are building on both sides of the road to ensure a good viewpoint as the cyclists race past.
The actual bike race goes past in a flash: a few blinks and the majority of cyclists have already sped past. There’s a lot more to the Tour de France than just the cyclists. For the spectators, there’s the hour-long procession of floats with freebies that the public go crazy for. Anyone for a plastic blow-up stick? Yes? How about this spotty hat with a supermarket name on the front? I’ve written before about the rather odd behaviour of the spectators during the Tour de France, and I try to stand back to avoid the carnage.
Before the floats, there’s a lot of local preparation that isn’t obvious to anyone visiting or watching on TV. The Tour de France is a chance for every village involved to show off their assets, so the work begins a few weeks before the race arrives. Work starts with signs, such as these ones, which have appeared on the road from St Jean de Sixt to La Clusaz even though the race goes in the opposite direction. These posts aren’t for the riders’ information: they’re a marketing tool to remind arriving visitors that the Tour de France is coming though!
About a week before the race, the road gets fixed up. Pot holes and cracks are mended, overly large speed humps are flattened so the cyclists don’t bounce in the air at high speed as they hit them, and sections of road are resurfaced as required. A few days later, the roads get repainted so they look their best. For the past few months, the roads around the Aravis have been devoid of all white paint, making night driving a bit more challenging. We all knew we’d need to wait until just before the race arrives for the new markings to appear, and sure enough, we now have fresh paint. For a week, we’ve also had signs reminding locals that the roads will be closed from midday until 6pm. Some businesses close for the day because their clients have no access, and the locals have been avoiding needing to go anywhere by car today.
But the work doesn’t stop there. Last week, I noticed that the sides of the main access road from Annecy were also being mowed in preparation for the big day. It seems that all the villages further from the action are as keen to look their best too.
So, if you want some pleasant driving, follow the route from the Tour de France: you’re guaranteed to have great road markings and a smooth ride.