The Chase

Stage 16 - Bourg-de-Péage to Gap

Everyday there is something happening that I did not envisage that would happen. Take for example this morning, walking to my car, from distance to my horror I thought someone had peeled off my TDF press sticker from my car's windshield. When I got to the car, I relieved to see that the sticker was still there, just a poor angle to be glancing at the from a distance.

At the start line when once again I momentarily forgot where I had parked my car. There is no massive car park for media at every stage, parking is always arranged through a labyrinth of convoluted narrow streets and sometimes you need a bread crumb trail just to find your way back. Often I use some of the VIP or publicity sponsor cars as landmarks but once they leave, the landscape changes and it;s all foreign.. I was turing around in circles trying to remember when in fact the car was couple of meters away from where I was standing. I definitely need a bright yellow car for my next Tour.

The third drama happened on course when trying to decide whether to photograph near the feed zone or head towards the summit of the final climb. The indecision was killing me, eventually I settled for being in the feed zone however making it in time for the finish was going to stressful.  Plus being out of mobile coverage range, there was no race updates. Hankering over these huge rock formations was no easy task as my shoes weren’t meant for going over rock surfaces. The fear of slipping and becoming an overnight YouTube sensation was a commonly occurring thought as each precarious step I took.

The journey back to the finish line was tense as I followed the soigneurs convoy back. The ASO provides soigneurs with their special off-race route that allows them to get back to the finish line quickly. It’s something I learnt couple of years ago but the soigneurs don’t drive slow at all. It is incredible at how fast they can drive through small towns but yesterday it was all along the main race route till we deviated in Gap. As we got into Gap the race kilometres was dwindling down and in the far distance, I could see the team buses parked. This was going to be my third time in Gap to make the same frantic rush through the same passage. We were cutting through traffic and not giving way at all. Eventually the press cars got deviated to another route and i knew the press centre was still a few kilometres away so I parked on the footpath and made a run for the finish line.

I was running as fast as I could with all the gear but I still couldn’t see the finish line in sight. I kept thinking “HOW FAR!!!!”, “HOW MUCH MORE TO GO!!!”, “I WISH I DIDNT EAT ALL THAT CAKE”… Eventually I was at the edge of the finish line and I still couldn’t see the photographers corner yet as it was blocked by the TV and Radio crew.  To my horror I saw all the photographers pilled into a corner like sardines in a can. Typical ASO placing barriers around the photographer’s stairwell then being told to be inside when there was no obvious way of getting in.

If you have ever seen sharks on an eating frenzy, that’s what the finish line is like, especially when Geraint Thomas came over the line. Nobody could care about the yellow jersey it was all about “G”. I couldn’t even get inside the scrum and everyone was pushing and pushing eventually I gave up.

Now the stage was finished and I had one final hurdle to overcome which was getting to my hotel. My fear was that my hotel reservation would be either cancelled or the hotel closed. Either would be mean sleeping in the car overnight as I had also ran out of phone credit. By the time I had arrived to the hotel, I was advised my room was cancelled and sold to someone else because I didn’t show up at 10pm and it was 10.30pm. Luckily there was a spare room left. Gap is one of the worst places to get a room booking during the Tour.




by Veeral Patel