I’ve always had an interest in the Tour de France since I began cycling, I wouldn’t say I’ve been obsessed but I’ve always found the tour buzz exciting, the race compelling and the racers astonishing. Many of the riders I’ve seen battle it out, get up after nasty crashes or have days of mechanical bad luck. Yet they stride on to the end compassionate to finish the tour regardless of the position.
When Ibis Hotels asked if I’d be interested in a day trip to see stage 3 up close and personal I simply couldn’t say no!
We arrived at the Ibis Hotel in Antwerp on Sunday evening dropped off our bags and headed out to explore and grab a bight to eat. Antwerp is an incredibly beautiful city, picturesque with complimenting modern architecture as well as historic buildings. After our meal we had a bit time to wander to the port side, all around the city folk were preparing for Stage 3, tour cars were about and they were beginning to fence off the roads for the race.
You could feel the buzz and excitement just walking around the city centre!
After a incredible nights sleep thanks to Ibis ‘Sweet beds’ (they manufacture there own beds and mattresses and they’re phenomenally comfy!) we were up and ready for the exciting day ahead.
I was up early so I had a bit of time In the morning to walk to the Market Square right beside the Hetpaleis, a theatre for children, young people and performing artists. The square looked incredibly inviting with a couple of locals who had stopped on their cycle journey to eat breakfast, drink a coffee and read before the day ahead.
We were picked up around 9AM in a pimped out Ibis VIP Land Rover sport by a lovely gentlemen named Francios.
Francios had been working the TdF for 15 years and knew the operation inside out. On our way to the start line, we were able to catch a glimpse of the team coach’s before they setup for the race ahead.
Walking down to the start line, Francios began explaining the itinerary of the day. We stopped right at the starting line when all of a sudden it soon dawned on me how surreal this experience was. We were the only people on the starting circuit, the crowds were behind gates and the pro’s we’re cycling past us, Francios greeting many of them who knew exactly who he was. What a crazy experience!
The Start line.
I particularly remember the start from last years TdF when the float cars drove through the centre of Leeds. Some sponsors I’d never think would be interested had the most extravagant and random float cars, at the time I thought how odd it was. Soon after I realised it’s a huge part of the excitement/hype which seemed to prompt the spectators to get excited as they knew there’d be freebees plus the race would begin after they’d passed.
Ibis Hotels went in particular style, probably the most noticeable in terms of noise with three drummers on the top of their float car!
Walking down towards the VIP village I see the Mavic car waiting at the side of the road, immediately I feel a nervous excitement build in me, the car was beautiful, the wheels and the Mavic branded frame right up close. The race start was coming close!