Watching stage 7 of the Tour de France 2015 at Lassay-les-Chateaux

Stage 7 of the Tour de France 2015 started at Livarot and finished at Fougeres and passed through Lassay-les-Chateaux, quite close to where I was staying for a couple of weeks.

Road signs warning of road closure.

Roads along the route are closed for several hours to allow the stage to pass.

I’ve seen many cycle races in France and Belgium as well as in the UK but I’d never actually witnessed a stage of the Tour de France in France. So this would be an opportunity to see Le Tour as it swept through a small town in the middle of northwest France.

Map showing stages of Tour de France.

Le Tour passes through north and north-west France.

The tour caravan would pass through around 2pm with the riders following behind about 3.50pm. So I planned my day so as to arrive just before the first of the commercial elements — the caravan — of the stage arrived.

Shop window display.

A hairdressers shop with a Tour de France display in the window.

The Tour is an import economic event for the places it passes through, with the start and finish towns and cities reaping the most commercial benefit from the attraction. Many of the shops in Lassay had special Tour de France displays in the windows but apart from the bars, cafes and restaurants most of the shops and businesses appeared to be closed. Presumably a  holiday took place with the town’s inhabitants and business people taking the afternoon off to cheer on Le Tour.

French police standing in road.

Gendarmes at a road junction in the centre of Lassay les Chateaux.

A lot of organisational effort is put in and a large number of Gendarmes (French police) are employed along the route and to accompany the caravan and riders. The caravan and riders pass at an average speed of 40kph or more and the Gendarmes warn people to stay on the pavement and only emergency vehicles are allowed to cross the roads.

Front cover of  stage programme.

A special newspaper is produced for each stage.

For each stage a special programme is produced showing the route and featuring articles on various riders and teams, and many adverts.

Man posing for a picture in van.

Official Tour de France commemorative shirts, hats and other items are sold along the route.

Official Tour memorabilia vans set up along the route to sell hats, shirts and other commemorative items.

Tour de France caravan passing through town.

The Tour de France lion passes through Lassay.

After a few police motor cycles pass through the main commercial caravan appears and sponsors throw out free samples and souvenirs to the crowds as they pass through.

Tour caravan passing along  a road.

The Tour caravan passing through Lassay.

This goes on for about an hour with groups of vehicles belonging to various sponsors passing through.

A cloth bag.

Various tat is hurled from the passing vehicles.

If you are lucky you get some nice souvenirs if you are quick enough to grab them as they are hurled from the vehicles. I was grateful for a free cloth shopping bag which came my way. I got hit in the face by some packets of small cakes as an extra bonus.

People leaning on barrier.

It’s along wait for the Le Tour to arrive.

In between all this there is a lot of waiting and those on the sunny side of the street start to look a little wilted.

Riders arriving.

The waiting is over as the riders arrive.

Finally the 22 teams of up to nine riders pass though. If you blink, you’ll miss them. I failed to photograph the first riders of the breakaway group as they whizzed past at about 60kph due to the road sloping down hill through the town.

Riders.

Riders.

Riders

Riders

RidersRidersRiders.After a few team cars and individual riders pass it is all over in about a minute.

There are around 200 cyclists and probably many more motor vehicles. It’s quite an event.

A small French town like Lassay provided atmosphere without the hoards of people associated with viewing the Tour in a large town or city. I had a very enjoyable afternoon.

British rider Mark Cavendish won the sprint at the end of the stage in Fougeres with Andre Greipal and Peter Sagan a close second and third. Chris Froome took the yellow jersey as race leader.

Full British triumph with Cavendish and Froome.

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