We had some time before the race start to take in the atmosphere and make the most out of the TdF VIP village before heading out to get a glimpse of the race!
Antwerp really is a stunning city, a subtle blend between old and new architecture with many little town squares in and amongst the city where locals pull out a few chairs, have a coffee and watch the world go by. Some where I definitely want to revisit at a later date!
A bit of fun before race start!
Eddy Merckx stopped by to say hello, again, another slightly surreal experience being stood meters away from him!
Not everyday you get to see one of the Tour Director cars so close!
One of my favourite aspects of the trip! Checking out the team coaches and all there bikes, so much carbon lust and a heap of technology alongside them! I don’t think I’ve seen so many high end carbon bikes in one place in my life!
At about 12 O’clock we had to get a move on before the race begun. We needed to get a bit of a head start if we wanted to grab lunch along the way and see them fly by at the sprint section.
It was incredible to see so many locals cheering on the riders with many companies BBQ’ing outside the office in order to enjoy the atmosphere! We were under the impression that the whole of Antwerp shut down just for the race.
Along the way we stopped for some road side lunch with some of the chaps from Team Europcar, Champagne was compulsory!
After a spot of lunch we got back on route, Francios explaining that we were going to have to stop further the down the road for a surprise. Not even Jennifier, the Marketing Manager for Ibis UK had any idea as to what this surprise was!
We pulled into a little country lane just off the race route and were told to wait out side. There were a few TdF cars about but we still could figure out what was going on. All of a sudden we could hear propellers getting closer… Helicopters?! A convoy of five swooped down in the field in front of us!
The plan was to see the Peloton fly by and then run to the helicopter, follow it for for the last 20 KM before landing and seeing them on the last climb!
We were just at the bottom of the sprint stage so when the Peloton flew past they were going at quite some speed!
This was my first helicopter ride let alone my first time seeing the Tour de France up close (or from above?!).
Swooping over the top of the peloton we were able to see the last few stretches of hills before the final 15KM. Within about 15/20 minutes we we’re making our way back to ground level, running from the helicopter and back into our car hoping to catch the final hill climb before the finish line.
At the time I felt like we were going to be very lucky to catch the end of the race, we could here the director of the race saying ’10 kilometers to go, 10 kilometers to go’. We peeled off the race ciruit and made our way through the back streets of Huy following a few other team cars along the way. We made it within minutes of the peloton coming up the hill, what huge relief!
After a busy day of dashing from one place too another we were relieved to head back to the Ibis Hotel in Namur to re-hydrate with an amazing authentic Belgium beer! We also had the opportunity to catch up with social media thanks to the free Wifi provided by the hotel (standard for all of them!).
Thank you to the Ibis Team for such an incredible experience – here’s my GoPro footage from the day!