Here it is. The day we’ve been waiting for. The jewel of the summer!
And it’s raining.
Not just raining, it’s hammering down.
This is the first day it’s rained here in over a week and according to forecasts tomorrow and the next seven days are going to be beautiful. But there we go. It happens.
Not that anyone seems to have noticed. The streets of Morzine are packed. The main square is a hive of activity and colours when we arrive. Horns, banners, huge stages, kids on shoulders, loud speakers. The atmosphere is electric! We’ve never seen Morzine like this.
People have come from all over the Portes Du Soleil to descend on Morzine for this special day – the 20th Stage of the Tour de France 2016 – and nothing is going to stop this party (which, as it turns out, hasn’t even begun yet, but already seems inevitable).
A huge crowd surrounds the entire area around the finish line. It’s ten deep at the barriers as far as the eye can see. And the old adage is proved true everywhere you look, as freebies are thrown into the crowd by the race sponsors. Never get between a tour enthusiast and a free hat. Especially if it is yellow.
We make our way down to the Beanies end of town, out of the chaos, and the Mountain Spaces team take up positions on opposite sides of the road with views down towards the mayor’s building. This is it.
It rains. And rains.
Sponsor trucks pull up to hand out free rain macs to the crowd, who go wild!
Then, an announcement over the speakers. The lead riders are descending the Joux-Plane!
Cowbells ring, horns, and klaxons fill the air and the barrier lining the route transforms into a sea of smartphones, tripods and selfie sticks. A large group of especially well-hydrated British fans are up on their tables, singing and chanting. One even has his top off, dancing in the pouring rain. The shops and bars empty onto the streets. Motorbikes and more sponsor cars fly past as the crowd cheers. There are people with cameras (and beers) on every balcony and a few brave people are even climbing lamp posts and signs, readying themselves for the best shot.
A rhythmic pounding is all we can hear as a thousand hands bang on the barrier in unison. This is great!
The Spanish rider, Ion Izagirre – Movistar Team, suddenly comes into view and everyone goes nuts! He flies past us looking utterly determined and well and truly soaked. Even his smile says he’ll be glad when the last 140km are over.
The crowd is still cheering as he disappears from view on his way to the finish line and the madness in the town square.
It’s a full 4 minutes before the next riders appear. Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) IAM Cycling, Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team and Julian Alaphilippe (France) Etixx.
Chris Froome (Great Britain) Team Sky, who crashed yesterday and hurt his knee, comes in at 20th Place, receiving the largest cheers from the men dancing on the tables and achieving what many thought inevitable, winning the Tour De France for the 3rd time.
We stick around to watch the last of the 175 brave men and women stream past us, an amazing procession of colours and grit.
The bars and restaurants begin to fill again as the crowd takes the party inside and out of the rain. The topless dancing man is given a free yellow hat.
It’s been a great day at the races! And the next time Le Tour visits Morzine, we’ll be here… will you?