Today, I went to a tractor-pulling-stuff competition. Conveniently, it was on the way back from Dijon, where I had been to visit friends. Fellow author and now friend, Francesca, alerted me to the competition here, so off I went, expecting, as she did, flabby men pulling tractors. How wrong we both were! It was actually the tractors that were pulling a heavily-weighted trailer that grew more resistant every second it was being pulled. With front wheels hopping off the ground and a lot of smelly tractor fuel smoke (definitely not nitrous oxide), some of the tractors bellowed down the field, covering us all in a lot of dust, on their way to the finish line, while others puffed to a halt after just a few seconds.
It’s actually a very technical sport: there were ground-wetting vehicles (tractors) and ground-flatteners (also tractors) to keep the course in good shape between each go. Contestants were judged on how fast their tractors were, presuming they reached the ‘full pull’ (the finish line). Each winning contestant did a wave of victory from their tractor as they returned to the start line. I was lucky enough to be standing near the family of the contestant driving the Rêve Rouge (red dream) tractor, which was red. His first and second runs were great! He had a winning time! As he approached the finish line for the third and final time, his tractor coughed and stopped with a bang. The family, who had been waving and clapping, were now upset and questioning what had happened. Swearing and lots of tutting commenced until they realised he was still the winner in his category with the fastest time. The group consensus was a problem with the radiator. No problems; he was towed away (by a tractor), still able to do his victory wave.
Although this event took place in the Swiss village of Tannay, it could well have been right here in La Clusaz, with a raclette cheese stand, beer tents on each side of the course, and very little else apart from some empty truck trailers which were deliberately used as raised viewing platforms. The event was almost anti-Swiss, with officials letting the public break the rules: I managed to walk inside the non-public tractor parking lot twice to get to where I wanted, and then across the start line when the competition was over, with an official actually lifting the rope for me to exit while some other tractors were still driving on the course. There were no how-to-pee signs (like this one) in the portable toilets either. Cars parked where they pleased rather than in the large, half-empty field for parking, and to top it all off, I heard Lilly Allen’s F*ck you very much between races, with little kids dancing and bigger kids singing along as if it were a nursery rhyme.
UPDATE September 2012: So many people have used the top image of the tractor without asking, that I’ve had to slap on an additional copyright notice. Sadly, the image is far less impressive with it on, but with three sites trying to sell the photo as their own work, I don’t want other people to make money of my hard work. Sorry to all the lovely people reading this who don’t wish to steal photos!