George and I made it to just past the half way point of stage 2 last night, and camped in the same hidden gully next to a golf course that we found just over a week ago when we passed through going the other way.
With 95km to go and a slight tailwind behind us rather than yesterday’s headwind we had a chance of making it to the finish at Tournai before the gendarmes closed the course.
By about 1030 locals had started setting their picnic spots by the roadside and giving us the odd encouragement.
We made a stop at a supermarket for groceries and witnessed our first flag selling thugs. George had told me about these guys, who aggressively sell crapola flags to anyone they can force to take one. They were harassing some old ladies in the supermarket car park when we arrived, and by the time I’d finished my shopping the police had arrived. George had seen one of them run off, and commented that “if Skippy were here he’d be out there finding that guy”. Skippy apparently has particularly strong feelings about these guys and has attempted to stop them in the past.
The closer we got to the finish the bigger the groups of roadside fans became. Some very large parties were being set up. Everyone seemed to be in the mood for a Monday party.
We made to within 4km of the finish before being kicked off the course and had to make our way to the finish on the footpath. George managed to nab his first course marker of the trip.
While attending to some errands and watching the end of the race, we met Dave the German who George had cycled with in previous years. He is here with three other messengers. Only one of them is a non smoker but they are apparently riding at 30kmh.
After a crush of humanity trying to get out of Tournai with team cars, fans and buses all trying to get down one narrow street, exacerbated by a bunch of stupid Belgians blocking the road so that they could sing to the BMC bus, we headed toward Orchies where tomorrow’s stage to Boulogne departs from.
After a few km we were back in France. What a breath of fresh air! No more impatient Belgian fuckwits revving their engines as they impatiently try to pass us. No more shitty potholed third world roads. No more women that look like men. I love you France.