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My son, Niko has me hooked on the Tour de France.  Yes, its 200 crazy men bicycling all over France and this year, a bit of England. But I love watching them as they show their strength climbing up mountains and I almost have to look away as then descend up to 50 miles an hour.

Most years, the Tour passes by our home in Provence.  Last year the men rode up the road to Les Baux on their way south to Arles or Nimes or somewhere close by.  This year they went through St. Remy de Provence.  Unfortunately, I am already home in California and I didn’t get to attend. But my son, daughter-in-law and her mom hung out in St. Remy and saw the race. Debbie, Robin’s mom was quick with her iPhone and let me use her photos.Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 12.25.15 PM

Here you can see Niko and my grandson, Olivier, waiting for the race.  it hadn’t started to rain yet.

Then the fun floats rumbled through town.  Debbie said it was as much fun as Mardi Gras in New Orleans.Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 12.25.30 PM

Finally the race roared through, but only the team cars were caught in photos. Debbie was too busy watching the riders to snap any photos.Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 12.24.29 PM

This morning I was glued to the TV watching a play back of Stage 17. Today’s race was considered the shortest but probably the hardest.  Vincenzo Nibali is still the leader.  He started 4:37 minutes ahead of Alejandro Valverde who is in 2nd place in the over all standings. They started in St. Gaudens and rode to St. Lary Pla d’Adet in the Pyrenees.

The route was described on television as; 1 hour flat out from the start, then 4 – 30 minute sprints into the mountains linked by 3 technical and dangerous descents in the last 50 miles. Not only are the climbs extremely hard and tiring but the descents are not a time for the riders to rest. Rafal Majka won today’s stage. He rides for the Russian sponsored team – Tinkoff-Saxo. Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 8.43.57 PM

Vincenzo Nibali, above, a member of the Astana team is still the overall leader and wears the yellow Jersey. After the today’s race, he had gained more time and is now 5.26 minutes ahead of Valverde who rides on the Spanish Movistar team.

Nicolas Roche of Ireland, the lead rider of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, climbing during the 17th stage of the Tour de France.

Nicolas Roche of Ireland, the lead rider of the Tinkoff-Saxo team, climbing during the 17th stage of the Tour de France.  Credit Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters (this morning’s online NY Times)                                                                                                                                             

I remember many years ago when I saw the Tour in the country side outside of Aix en Provence. We arrived an 1 1/2 hours before the race and when the riders appeared, the bikes went by in a blur.  If you get a chance to see the Tour in person, go for it.  Yes there is a long wait but these men are marvelous athletes.