July 03, 2017 0 Comments
The weather for the start of stage two was marginally more friendly than the constant downpours that marred the opening time trial, contributing to several crashed and the abandonments of 3 riders. But the crowds were out in force again on another wet morning in Düsseldorf, where the showers were lighter and less frequent than the previous day. I strolled room my hotel up to the Bergplatz area, that has been the scene of the Team Presentation on Thursday when I arrived.
I'd arrived super-early, and although there was a crowd starting to gather where the teams would later sign on, I decided to head north and make the short walk to the team's parking area by the river.
But first I had to wait while the caravan passed through, bringing a huge amount of noise and colour to proceedings. All manner of random vehicles and creatures weaved their way past as smiley young people threw all kinds of giveaways and gadgets at excited onlookers who fought for the worthless pieces of tat as if their lives depended upon it.
Amongst the more bizarre sights and sounds were: a young woman passing hotel slippers through a small window in the side of a campervan; a rendition of the German national anthem, sung in a slight French accent and with words adapted to celebrate the little fluffy Madeleine cakes there were launching at passers-by; and a man promoting Bostik by repeatedly shouting the slogan "Let the people stick!"
There was a lot of activity in the team location as the teams were located directly adjacent to the ASO Village Départ, which had been erected overnight. There was a real buzz in the air as everyone anticipated the start of the first road stage of this year's race, however, it was still a welcome relief from the raucous caravan, that seems to get more random year by year. Or maybe I just get older...
Some of the riders had the key details of the day's stage taped to the stem of their bars to remind them during the day of what was coming up - whether it be a climb, sprint or feed.
Italian national champion Fabio Aru of Team Astana had a special red paint job on his Argon 18 road bike. He also had the honour of wearing the famous dossard 51 which is regarded as the luckiest of all Tour de France race numbers.
The wheels of Peter Sagan's spare race bike were decorated with some pretty eye-catching rainbow decals in recognition of him being current world road race champion.
Not to be outdone, former Wolrd Champion Mark Cavendish went for a gold chain on his spare race bike, which also had a fresh green paint job for The Tour.
After mooching about the team parking area I decided to head back to the sign-on area, as riders were starting to venture out from the buses to make the short ride to fulfil their obligation to visit the stage and sign their name before being permitted to commence racing. By now a huge crowd had gathered and the announcers were being kept busy with a steady flow of riders visiting the podium.
The sign-on offers journalists one final chance to grab a quick interview before the race departs.
And the fans are able to get close to the riders to gather autographs and photos.
Mark Cavendish waits on the podium to sign on for the day and make a short interview with the announcer and then the waiting journalists.
German favourite John Degekolb of Trek-Segafredo was a popular visitor to the podium and chatted for a while about his hopes and aspirations for the day and the historic start of the Tour de France in his home country.
One fan takes the opportunity to grab a photo of Belgium's Philippe Gilbert of Team Quickstep Floors as the rider gives a television interview.
Race leader Geraint Thomas of Team Sky tells of his pride and honour in wearing the yellow jersey of the Tour de France race leader, and how he plans to still be wearing it when stage three of the race starts.
Eventually, all the riders and signed-on, interviews are done and the area cleared for the riders and race vehicles to come through. The giant screen counts down 30 seconds and off they go, heading out for a long nervous day in the saddle.
After just 4 days on tour, I am completely destroyed and almost relieved to be heading home already after my first stint at this year's race. It's often said that the riders have the easiest of all jobs on the Tour de France, such are the stresses and strains put on all those that follow the race from stage to stage. I'm looking forward to a few nights in my own bed, a reliable broadband connection and the ability to actually watch the race and follow what's happening without having to be running around from place to place, surviving on caffeine and adrenaline only! However, I know very well that within 48 hours of being away from this crazy race, I will be itching to get back, such is its addictive lure.
All these images were captured using the Huawei P10 Dual Lens. If you want to see more images taken using this great phone camera you can search using the hashtag #huaweiP10 and #ShowWhatYouLove and #huaweilovestravel
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