Suddenly the local hotels found themselves booking up, and fast, for next July. Then word got out. The Tour is coming to the Dordogne. The Tour will be right next door in our lovely Perigueux. This news started to headline the papers in mid-September, but it wasn’t announced officially until October 23rd. Everyone was holding their breath.
The local papers declared it was like winning the rights to host The World Cup soccer finals. For a brief moment someone thought we were like Rio de Janeiro?! Well, The Tour is the third most watched sports event in the world. Olympics, The World Cup and The Tour.
Bergerac, the city of of the long-nosed bard Cyrano de Bergerac, and Perigueux, the capital of the Dordogne, had “won” the rights to host the penultimate final stage of The Tour.
July 25th and 26th will be the scene of the final match off of the worlds best cyclist. Each cyclist leaves Bergerac individually to compete against the clock set up at the finish line in the center of Perigueux. The results of this day’s racing will be the real final of the Tour de France. The scenes of the peloton (this is the same word as a ball of wool - unthreading itself) sweeping down the Champs Elysees are just for the glory of Paris, of France, of the Riders. Tradition dictates that the yellow jersey of the leader is not attacked on this final day.
The entire community will be pulled into the preparations. We’ll be on international television. We want to look our best. Animated, clean and proud. It’s up to each city to prepare and finance its own festivities. This is the other big surprise of the announcement - the bill. The average cost of sprucing up for the villages that line the route will be between 50,000and 100,000 euros. EACH.
They have had to test several routes of arrival into the convoluted center of Perigueux. Like Boston, the roads were built for carts and foot traffic - not elbow jostling, wind blowing, bicyclist with their accompanying motorcycles and the layers of excited fans.
The route will need to be ready for more than just the riders. The tour is a moving village of 4500 people, 2500 vehicles and 130 trucks.
Already the controversies have begun... It has been noted that the two mayors are not really working hand in hand to coordinate expenditures and planning. Civic rivalries between two rural towns hoping to have the best corn festival is one level of political tug-of-war. But when two cities of more than two thousand years of history and pride go at it, it’s like a modern version of the intrigues between medieval kings, princes, and warlords.
For the average Pierre, the end result is assured-- one long segment of road will have fresh, unblemished blacktop.
(The part left out:
The grumbling has already started because the last time the center of Perigueux was blocked for a day it was impossible to conduct everyday business - will it help that this year the city will be in full celebration on a Saturday!?)