Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Perfect Day of Racing in the Haut Var

“This is FatherSonTour reporting from Stage 2 of the Tour du Haut Var in the mountain town of Tourtour, France.” That was our opening tweet as the three boys and I began last Sunday spectating some truly awesome professional cycling here in the South of France.  I don’t know if we chose to watch the race from town of Tourtour for its great location (the race would pass through the town and it’s climb three times during the day), or, perhaps, more for the opportunity to tweet that opening line with all the “tours” in it.  In any case it was a great choice. Tourtour is a beautiful, somewhat remote, hilltop village in the Var department of France.  An 8km climb winds its way up to the village and crests on a grassy knoll by a church just after it passes through center of town.  The top of the climb has incredible views to the south down towards the Mediterranean Sea (about 30 miles away) to the west towards the Luberon and Mont Ventoux (50 miles away), and to the east towards the famous towns of Cannes and Nice of the Cote d’Azur.  It was truly a great venue for watching the race unfold.  
Boys at the Tourtour Summit
I love watching these early-season races roadside with the boys.  There’s not as much hype nor as many crowds as the stages of the major Tours later in the year.  You have more access to the races and you are more able to get a sense of the tactics and how the race is unfolding. It is pure cycling at its best. The day would also be special because our friend Chad Haga was racing in the peloton. Chad rides for Team Giant-Alpecin.  We met Chad last year in Lucca at the beginning of his first year in the pro ranks of the World Tour.  Chad had an incredible debut season, and a very impressive finish to his first grand tour at the Vuelta de Espana.  Maybe even more impressive was the fact that he managed to blog every single day of that first Grand Tour.  Wow!  You can find a link to Chad's blog here.
Getting ready to cheer the riders on
It was an amazingly beautiful day with highs in the low 50’s.  This was in sharp contrast to the day before. The weather for stage 1 had been terrible with heavy rains and close to freezing temperatures.  Chad had told us that it was so cold that he couldn’t feel the lower part of his legs and feet for much of the race.  I think the contrast of the beautiful weather for stage 2 made everyone happy – spectators and racers alike! We arrived in Tourtour about an hour before the race was scheduled to come through.  Everyone was hungry so we found a small café in the center of small village to order the kids favorite --“Americane.”  The “Americane” is a hamburger in a French baguette with frites inside as well – all covered in copious amounts of ketchup…Yes, you can take the boys out of the States, but you can’t take the States out of the boys!
The Famous "Americane"
After lunch we walked 200 meters or so up to the hill crest to get ready for the race to come through, on what would be the first of three passes through the town.  As we waited for the race, we met some of the locals and the boys had fun wrestling and rolling down a sun soaked grassy hill.  It was one of those days that give you this uplifting, reassuring sense that spring and better weather are soon to arrive.  From our vantage point at the top of the GPM (the line at the top of the mountain for climbing points), we could see the race make its way through Tourtour and crest the climb.  Even more stunning was the backdrop framing this scene -- the white summit of Mont Ventoux in the distance.
The GPM summit with white top of Mt. Ventoux in the distance
It quickly became apparent that Chad’s Giant-Alpecin team was looking to do something pretty special in the race that day.  They were on the front in the first pass of the GPM.  For the second and third passes they were in the front of the peloton and appeared to be comfortably managing the break of the day, keeping them within about a minute and a half.  
Giant-Alpecin out in front all day
After the third pass at Tourtour, we drove 20 minutes down to the town of Draguignan for the finish which was three loops of a 17km hilly circuit around the town.  Here, we were able to see the race play out, and see all of Giant-Alpecin’s work for the day pay out in the end.  The team was able to get away with about 40 riders on the final circuit and, in the final straightaway, Chad gave his teammate Luka Mezgec an insane lead-out to launch his sprint for the win.  In professional cycling, success often comes down to cohesive teamwork.  The day was right up there with one of the best bike races we’ve ever spectated.  I think for Chad and his Giant teammates it was pretty close to a “perfect day” on a bike.  I’m really happy that we were able to be there, and that the boys could see a rider that they have come to respect and admire do so well in the race.
The reward - Luka going for the win with Chad in the background.  Photo credit

After the race, we were able to catch up with Chad.  Liam also got the chance to practice his developing race reporting skills with a post-race interview.  Hope you enjoy it!

Live Strong, Train Safe and Live Well!

This is Bill, Liam, Aidan and Roan signing out.

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