Tour de Force…

The throb and roar of the helicopter silence the crowd as it swiftly rises over, hovering, bee-like above the mountain-side, dangling: pfwom, pfwom, pfwom it thunders in our ears, just metres from our heads.

From below, curving round the mountain, the sounds of shouts, screams, cow-bells and horns ring out, the crescendo of noise gets higher and louder and closer and closer.

The gendarme, heavy-blue-clad, menacing Gallic brutes, sit clamped on their fat motorbikes, scream past waving the crowds to stay off the road…

The mob ignore the warnings and swarm back across the tarmac. Listening intently, staring eagerly. Then through the trees, to the hairpins below – you see them.

Swift, elegant; a large moving body of sinew and glistening tanned bodies move as one efficient, elite machine. Their legs pumping up and down, their knees moving gracefully, but at electric speed: up, down, up, down: like pistons powering the finest-tuned instrument.

The stamina, the swift passing bite of pain and raw-energy that surrounds and fuels these world-class cyclists is palpable; you taste their sweat, their heat, their endurance, as they whistle past you admidst the whirl and shrieks of the thousands who bray, chase and salute their lycra-clad heros.

Then, there are gone, further up the mountain – chasing the screeches and calls of the baying crowds higher-up.

This is the Tour De France, one of the worlds only free professional sporting events. French, Belgian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Brit, American, Aussie, Slovak, Basque and more, many more, all are here to see their own boys make the grade in this most gruelling of sports.

And within all this grace and chaos there permeates: bloody, deep, rough gashes, from peloton crashes and road side-accidents, which tarnish the slick, strong thighs; drugs and doping continuously murmur in the underbelly; brands compete for favour and marketing self-abuse in the sponsorship of these human machines; young boys gaze in blind adoration, and mere mortals, clad in identikit lycra, seek to reflect, impress and copy – with not so much as a smear of craft or talent.

This sport, like no other, is there for the taking…rolling across France, and more than 3,000 kilometres, three weeks of hard-earned pain and beauty all on two wheels – Vive La Tour De France!!

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