I’ve been waiting days for the 2020 Tour de France to enter the Pyrénées, as I knew Saturday’s stage 8 would be a spectacular day visually, and likely a telling day for the GC contenders. I was not left disappointed.
Skipping the start today, I went straight up to the Port de Balès, one of my absolutely favorite climbs. It is a remote and rustic climb, and is always special. I’ve followed Alberto Contador, as he avoided cattle crossing while training here. And I seen some great racing here. Today I just wanted to get up early and hang out with the fans before the publicity caravan came by.
- Tour de France retrospective: Bernard Thévenet remembers Luis Ocaña’s epic ride to Orcières-Merlette
- Tour de France retrospective: Raphael Geminiani remembers post-war Tour and compares it to today
- Tour de France 101: Beginner’s guide to the Tour de France
Then I followed the caravan down and then up the Col de Peyresourde. For those curious about crowd attendance in this year’s Tour, the fans flocked to the mountains today in what can only be described as true Tour spirit. Despite restrictions on motor vehicles, thousands rode or walked up this climb in an effort to see the favorite riders pass. Some camped in the valley the night before while others just drove to the as close as they could before grabbing their bikes.
And few were disappointed when the riders charged by. French rider Nans Peters was the first to enter the arena that was the final kilometer of this key climb. And Primož Roglič, Adam Yates and the other favorites also got a hearty cheer.
But the biggest applause went to French rider Benoit Cosnefroy, who has been defending the polka-dot jersey for much of the first week. Jumping into the early breakaway, he once again grabbed king of the mountain points on the early climbs before sitting up. Savoring the final kilometer of the Peyresourde, he then got the crowd to do a stadium wave Tour de France style. Needless to say that was real crowd pleaser, not to mention a fitting way to finish off the day.