Passage du Gois

2 July 2011

Today is the day.
Yes, I know Prince Albert from Monaco is marrying his bride Charlene.
But that is not what I am talking about.
Today is the start of the Tour de France 2011.
In the past few years prologues often took place on the first day.
Not this year. The first stage is a normal stage. Well, normal?
The start is, as the official site says, ‘between sky and sea.’
That made me think of a big plane with bikes falling out of it,
but that is not what they meant.
The start is at the Passage du Gois.
That is a road. Sort of.
Actually, it is 4,5 km. in length, it leads to the island of Noirmoutier
and it is covered by water twice a day.
The site also mentions that it is ‘fully accessible at low tide.’
That might be true, but the road is small, green and extremely slippery.
Not many riders are happy to pass this road.
Who does not remember 1999 when about half the peloton crashed there?
If you were not covered in seaweed,
you were saying ‘hi’ to a lobster,
or looking for your bike somewhere in the sea.
The direction learned of that year.
It will not be in the actual stage, but just before the official start.
The waving with the flag will be at the end of the passage,
to make sure none of the riders will be at top speed.
Still, if riders in 1999 were speaking of ‘standing on ice’,
it will be the same today.
Whether you are at top speed or not, it is a risky ride anyway.
And what if one of the favorites crashes?
Yes, the peloton is going to wait when someone crashes,
but if, let’s say, Robert Gesink, Bradley Wiggins or Andy Schleck falls,
and they have a bad fracture, the Tour will be over for them.
I guess that is not what the direction meant with a great start at the Vendée.
More spectacle does not always mean more safety for the riders.
That is what directions of big races tend to forget.

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