Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Red, White, Blue... and Yellow!

Happy 4th of July everyone! This year is my second year as an American citizen to celebrate Independence Day. Juan's parents and his brother are coming to Austin. We hope to catch a glimpse of the fireworks - somehow (we're still trying to decide on which strategic spot we should position ourselves).

But that's not all my dear friends and fellow citizens!!  For this Saturday is the kickoff  of the 2008 Tour de France! 

When I still lived in France, I would often manage to go see it. I grew up with my father and grandfathers watching Le Tour - as French people commonly refer to - every Summer. I never saw any fun in watching it - until we saw it in real. For that, I remember, we drove to the famous tough climb of L' Alpe D'Huez with its 21 hairpin bends!! How the cyclists climb it under the Summer heat is beyond me...

Like a baseball game, the fun of Le Tour is not in the race itself, but in the atmosphere. Hours before the riders whoosh before you - panting, while you slowly sip a cool bottle of water - you get to enjoy the parade of the publicity caravan. These are hundreds of small vans, or cars from different companies like Coeur de Lion (cheese), Haribo (candies), Cochonou (saucisson) parading with music and handing out different freebies like  food samples, bags, stickers, key chains and other knickknacks. Everyone always tries to collect as much as they can. 

After the publicity caravan has passed, the excitement grows because the head of the race is close - usually within the hour. It's the calm before the storm. Some people bring their mini portable radio - and for some who literally camp out, a TV - to follow the race and judge how far they are and who's leading. The wait can be long and boring but soon you hear a distant clamor and car horns. The crowd is getting thicker, restless, amped. Then like a flash, it seems, the peloton de tete - the head of the race - followed shortly by the main peloton sprint by. You try to spot you favorite. I remember that I was cheering for Bernard Hinault  and  Greg Lemond. Police cars, journalists, camera operators on motorcycles, team cars escort the racers. 

The moment is brief but exceptionally thrilling and exhilarating. And just like that, the excitement and the roar fades away. The crowd slowly scatters. 

If you're up for a laugh, then watch this video; I was interviewed by the local Austin news in 2004 at a Tour de France watch party. Geez, I can't stand my voice!


Lotus Flower said...

We used to celebrate our independence day same as the United States and that's July 4. Somehow along the way, though our legislators found it fitting to celebrate our instead on June 12.

In this part of the world, we usually refer to July 4, as Fil-American Friendship Day.


Will said...

Is that Jeff in the background of that video? :)

Laetitia said...

Yep! Sure is! :)

mcsteans said...

Letty - I thought you did a great job being interviewed! You have a beautiful speaking voice - everyone thinks their own voice sounds weird on camera :)