Le Tour de France Stage 21 Chantilly/Paris-Champs-Elysees Ride Report
by Rob Verfurth
Riders: Chris Froome, Peter Sagan, Rafal Majka, Adam Yates and the rest of the best riders in the world
This is not actually a ride report, more of a ride watch report. I was with my family in Paris for a week. Our oldest, Dyess, is studying there for the summer. After a fun week in Paris we headed for Compiegne, a beautiful town an hour north of Paris. I realized that the last stage of the tour was going to be in Chantilly, a short drive from Compiegne. Serena, Porter and I went to Chantilly on Friday to visit the Chateau de Chantilly and learn more about the start of Stage 21 by speaking to a number of locals and getting a tour brochure, before continuing onto Compiegne. Dyess joined us later that evening after returning from Ghent, Belgium for a school trip. We all made plans to go to Chantilly on Sunday.
After an enjoyable Saturday in Compiegne, which has its own large Imperial Palace in town, we got up early Sunday to drive to Chantilly. We stopped on the way to buy red wine, fresh baguettes, cheese, fresh fruit and other treats for our planned picnic. Serena found a route coming in from the south that was not going to be blocked off on Sunday. We were able to park near the Chateau and then walk closer to the center of town, where the race was to begin. We snacked in the shade and grass before walking into the main square. Roads were all blocked off, the stage took over the center of town and the starting line showed the way the ride would head–right towards the chateau. The crowds were already building. The team buses all rolled into town and parked on one side of the main street. All the team cars, piled high with bikes were parked near each bus. Eventually a large number of plain buses rolled into town; all the riders got out of these buses and strode to their large team buses to get into their kits and get ready for the race; now less than 2 hours away. Some riders walked along the edge of the crowds to take photos or sign autographs before heading to their team bus.
About 2 pm the parade started to roll down main street. These were all the tour sponsors decked out in colorful cars with displays & actors dancing to loud music. They threw out plenty of swag to the cheering fans lined 3-4 deep along the parade route. We managed to get a few hats and other mementos from our day at the start of the tour. Riders were now starting to ride up to the main stage, go up the ramp and sign in before the start. Each rider had to go to the stage. There were live interviews and riders cruising right in front of us. The crowds were now 10-15 deep and getting more crowded in the center of town.
Our plan was to head out about a half mile, just at the edge of Chantilly and right in front of the Chateau to see the riders come by us. The planned stage route was to go right up and through the chateau and begin the 113 km race to the middle of Paris. At a few minutes after 4 pm, the lead car came our way, followed by the four riders of the yellow, green, polka dot and white jersey. They were just cruising along. The race was still in a neutral zone and the stage was mostly just a celebratory ride anyway, except for the final sprint. The rest of the riders followed this lead four, then lots of cars with bikes and the whole route group of bike, cars and motorcycles went up the ramp onto the grounds of the chateau.
We waited for everyone to get by before making our way back to our car to drive back to Compiegne. We thoroughly enjoyed the day in Chantilly and the Tour de France experience. On the way back, we decided to stop by the chateau de Pierrefonds, another neat historical location. We finally made it back to town and stopped to get a bite to eat at La Brasserie Parisienne. The tour was on the television and the race had made its way to the Champs-Elysees. We watched the last 20 km, seeing Andre Greipel finish first just ahead of a charging Peter Sagan. The head waiter asked me if I was familiar with Paris-Roubaix race. I told him I knew it was a 1-day spring classic race won this year by Matt Hayman (who I had seen earlier in the day near the main stage area in Chantilly). The waiter told me the race started at the Imperial Palace in Compiegne, only a block from the restaurant. It is really Compiegne-Roubaix!
It had been quite a day to be part of the Stage 21 festivities, see the start in person and then watch the finish. The family wants to go back and do it again someday. I still hope to ride some of the routes in the future. I have attached the photos from the day spent in Chantilly for the start of Stage 21.