The Road to Liege
The last time I went to France, it was on a school trip in 1987. Truth be told, the sights of Paris came a distant second to hearing Coventry City win the FA Cup on the radio. For that matter, it was also very close to the last time I touched a bike, up until my first posting with Team Sky during the Giro d'Italia - 'Tour of Italy'. The Giro passed in three unforgettably pink (the official colour of the race) weeks of noise, excitement, dust, and getting used to the amazing pace that always dictates life on the road with the team. When I was asked back for the Tour de France, it didn't take long to say yes.
Everyone from the fans to the Team Principals (more on them later) refer to the Tour de France simply as 'the Tour'. Many other races have the same prefix, but only one is sufficiently famous, epic, and so overwhelmingly difficult as to be referred to by it. The Tour is more than just a bike race; it is thousands of kilometers (3,497 in 2012) of epic victories, defeats, crashes, dizzying mountain climbs and death-defying sprint finishes. Such is the challenge of the race it's considered an achievement simply to finish, let alone win anything whilst riding it. Or so I'm told.
Everything starts tomorrow with the 'Prologue' time trial in Liege, Belgium where I am currently sitting writing this. The Tour has a habit of starting in different countries, including the UK in 2007. In cycling terms, The Tour is an event equivalent to several European Cup finals rolled into one, and there is stiff competition from neighboring countries for this great race to visit their major cities. The excitement in Liege is palpable and half of the town is covered in yellow, the Tour's official colour. Supposedly yellow was chosen to reflect the colour of the newspaper that originally organized the race, L'Equipe. Meanwhile the riders (more on them later too) don't appear nervous at all on the outside, but simply excited to start tomorrow's racing. I'm sure that will change as the race progresses.
The butterflies that have been nervously fluttering about in my stomach are now graciously retreating into feelings of real excitement. It'll be my first time experiencing the 'magic' of the Tour that friends who are old hands on the team describe. There will be beautiful places, new people, and (hopefully) unforgettable experiences, and I can't wait to get started. Day-to-day I'll be ensuring that the new XF Sportbrakes supporting the riders are in top condition for every kilometer of the race. I'll also be helping out with the thousand and one other tasks that need doing every day, including guiding riders to the start line, which I hope to be doing again.
I'll report back as soon as possible, but for now it's packing (lots of it), making sure the Haribo are in the cars (for me only), and giving them another clean before tomorrow. Finally a plug for my Twitter account, which you can follow using the tag below.
Follow Martin on Twitter: @Teamsky_Jaguar
Visit the homepage: www.jaguar.com/gl/en/xf_sportbrake