Tour de France
July 17, 2004
I’m not sure if I’m on an endless rollercoaster or if I’m caught in a tornado. It’s been an incredible experience to be here in France at the Tour de France. It’s hard to describe this event in words or even pictures. It’s basically a giant sports event with up to 1,5 million spectators along the roads, 5000 persons with accreditations, 1400 official cars, over 90 different TV stations (OLN is just one of them with probably 50 people or more), over 1200 journalists, some 70 photo agencies, and some 180 cyclists. The most impressive part is that everything and everybody has to move daily. It is literally a tornado and I’m one of the many persons who is caught in it – speeding through France.
A certain town, village or location can be almost normal 5 hours prior before the Tour comes through, with in hours it builds up to the one quick moment when the tour passes through for 30 seconds and within minutes things are back to normal, and one can hardly imaging that the Tour including all its cycling pros and legends just came through.
Having a media pass makes access and mobility quite easy, nonetheless it is amazing how accessable everything and everybody is. To run into Eddie Merckx or to have Lance ride pass you is as normal as standing next to Cheryl Crow or cycling fans from around the world.
Everything happens so fast, it is very hard to remember were we slept last night or what town we were in, not to mention how to pronounce it, etc., it seems like this Tour has been going on forever but it’s barely half way through. I have experienced some great and unforgetable moments, met many interesting people and locals…..
I’m not sure if you caught any of my “Excuse my French” TV segments? That’s were the rollercoaster part kicks in. Our initial idea was to have a daily 2 minute segment about weird and interesting side stories around the Tour, to loosen up the regular coverage and to show a bit more besides racing. OLN put us in a new show, in the afternoon when nobody watches the Tour, together with Kirsten Gum and the Cutters, some crazy US cycling fans. Nobody really planed our program much; plus we all kind of ended up covered similar stories. I was kind of bummed because it didn’t really match my initial idea nor was I, just as many of the viewers back home, too stoked about the programing and the cutters (which are actually really nice guys) – OLN ended up changing things around a few times, yesterday they decided to stop the Roadside Tour show, but continue with daily segments from me – I’m not sure if the Cutters are still on board. I’m more happy with the new format, where they want to feed my segments into the Recap (afternoon) show and sometimes hopefully into the Primetime show. But everybody from OLN has their hands full with the daily coverage, our idea kind of falls through the cracks – but we still do our best trying to find interesting stories. The stories actually come surprisingly easy our way, all you have to do is start talking to people and roll the camera.
Most of the days we have no glue what we are going to do, we just drive or ride somewhere and start looking around and thing unfold quickly.
The other day I got the chance to experience a stage from the Mavic car. It was the stage that ended in St. Flour, with a long breakaway of Virenque and Axel Merckx – I was right behind them most of the time or two or three cars back, battleing with all the other support cars and motos. It was like a race in itself on the downhills, chasing the riders going 80 km/h, dicing with two or three motos on your side with squeeling tires and human barriers left and ride on the roadside.
Tonight we just arrived at the Plateau de Beille where tomorrows stage will end. Nothing is set up yet, all the TV trucks and finishline vehicles are on their way, arriving tonight. Everywhere on the mountain are big parties, there must have been a couple of tousand RV’s parked along the side of the road, there was not one spot left on the roadside on the whole 17km uphill to the ski resort. I can only imagine the nightmare to get out of here after the race……People are already (20hours before the race) standing roadside, cheering on all the cars and trucks going uphill….
We have an RV which is super handy, we can just pull up anywhere, especially with our credentials, and wake up next to the finishline or whereever we pulled up. My crew is cool and easy. Steve is the cameraman/producer, we have Tim our editior – he has to edit our pieces within hours and turn them in so they can upload them to the OLN Studios in the USA, and Magnus is our Driver and assistant. We have also a motocycle courier dedicated, in case he needs to rush one of our tapes to the upload truck at the finish line.
Things are cool – I’m not too worried about the TV show, although I want it to be successful, I’m not banking on a TV career in the future.
This is a live time opportunity, I’m thankful to be part of it this year.