It’s called the Race to the Sun and 7 years ago under a perfect spring sky the 72nd Paris-Nice cycle race came through Roquefort town. Wind and rain may buffet the riders at the beginning of the course in the north of France but no one can remember a time when it wasn’t sunny in Nice at the end. And on that, the penultimate, day of the race in 2014 the weather couldn’t have been more perfect to stroll down the street and support the riders as they sped past. Will it be as lovely tomorrow when the race once again comes through Roquefort les Pins in its 79th edition? I’ll be there, at the end of my street to find out.
This will be the sixth time in the 14 years we’ve lived here that a major cycle race has come through (or very close to) our home town, having had the Tour de France in 2009, 2013 and 2020, the Paris-Nice in 2014 and the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var earlier this year. While the Paris-Nice cycle race is a much smaller affair than the Tour de France, it’s still an important event and considered the true start of the cycling season allowing participants their first significant opportunity to test their fitness. The week-long course is like a mini Tour de France taking in high mountain passes and other challenging terrain and rewarding the winners of each stage with the yellow jersey, red spotty jersey for the best mountain climb etc.
The yellow jersey wearer on the day we watched in 2014, Carlos Betancur from Colombia, was easily spotted surrounded by his teammates leading the peloton. We waved our British flag and got a honk from the Sky Team backup car. Somewhere in there was British rider Geraint Thomas who was coming second overall and who I spotted in the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var in February this year.
I’m not sporty and I’m not a cyclist either but there’s something very compelling about watching these cycle stage races. They are such an amazing test of endurance. Living in the south of France we see cycling clubs out on the roads around us all year but by late spring, early summer it’s crazy how many people don their lycra and pedal up the mountain passes. So when a race passes through the town, two minutes’ walk from home, it’s obvious we’re going to be there to watch.
The Paris-Nice doesn’t have the great publicity “caravan” preceding it though the number of vehicles (support cars, spare bike cars, press, team vans, ambulances, police, gendarmes and so on) that tag along behind the race take far longer to pass than the riders themselves. It makes you reflect on the carbon footprint of this so-called “ecological” sport!
Do you enjoy sporting events? Have you seen any cycle races? I love hearing from you so feel free to leave a comment. I always reply.
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This post was originally published in 2014 and updated for 2021