The anticipation is at fever pitch in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Today is a huge moment for the small town in the Cote d'Or, which is visited by the Tour de France for the very first time this afternoon, when it hosts the finish of stage seven of the 2017 race. Nuits-Saint-Georges, renowned for producing world-class wines, has less than 6,000 inhabitants, yet all of them will have their pulses racing as the peloton sweeps through the vineyards and then into the finish on the Rue General de Gaulle.
But then that’s the effect of a visit of the Tour de France. Beamed around the world to billions of television viewers in 190 countries and watched on ipads, smartphones and laptops, it is truly a world event. It’s not cheap hosting the Tour and even with the revenues from tourism and other publicity, the 180,000 euros spent by the town just to host a stage finish, are a significant cost. But with the TV helicopters hovering overhead and millions tuning in to watch the climax of the stage, it will be worth it.
Meanwhile, the riders are just passing through. They race on, from town to town, oblivious to all the hard work and logistical gymnastics going on around them. Their daily routine of eating breakfast, packing their bags, heading to the start, racing their bike, eating dinner and then sleeping, allows little time to take in the sunflowers and the chateaux, the rivers and lakes, alongside the route du Tour. And over the coming weekend, as the Tour heads first into the Jura and then on, into the steep and long climbs of the Savoie, their surroundings will become even more spectacular.
On Saturday, the race climbs into the high pastures of the Jura on beautiful and remote roads, climaxing with a stage finish at the Station des Rousses, well known for cross country and Nordic skiing, overlooking Lake Geneva. Sunday’s stage, with seven climbs — some so steep that they have forced riders to climb off and walk in the past — will be one of the most spectacular of the Tour. It speeds through the Ain and the Haute Savoie, overlooking beautiful Lac du Bourget, the largest natural lake in France, before a breakneck descent from the Mont du Chat into Chambery.
And then? Well, after a long east to west transfer across France, it’s the first rest day in Dordogne — a chance to take a deep breath, take stock, and more importantly for the suiveurs du Tour, to do the laundry!
Words: Jeremy Whittle
Photography: Pete Goding