Our daily routine instead involves execution around at the start for interviews, after that jumping into cars and racing ahead to the press room at the end line to catch the last couple of hours through the all-seeing eye of television. Even the handfuls of reporters who gather together at the finish line tend to keep their backs to the road to focus on three televisions inside a stuffy exhibition area.
But in the decades previous to the host broadcaster, France Televisions, developed its elaborate live broadcasting system, a lot of journalists followed the Tour from the back of a motorbike.
The president of a large bicycle association and companion of a seven-time French national track cycling champion, Primary uses his motorbike skills at bike races concerning 50 days a year.
He made it obvious that he did not do it for the money.
Receiving out of Andorra and rear into France involved a 22.6-kilometer, otherwise 14-mile, mountain pass scale. Because we slowed to a crawl not far up the scale, the Tour’s internal radio scheme told us to Peter Sagan, the present world champion had shaped a group of breakaway riders.
Except for the gendarmerie’s best Republican Guard motorcycle group, a red-jacketed “manager,” who is too on a motorbike, dictates the position of every one of the other 70 motorbikes in the race.
An apparently strong code dictated who was allowable to get close to the riders on a given moment. Other than France Televisions’ camera bikes appeared gratis to go pretty much anywhere they wanted, provide that they did not pace or put in danger the cyclists.
Some radio reporters did rolling interviews with team directors inside their cars. The neighboring I came to a meeting, however, was while we were cursed by a group of riders who were trying to create their way back toward the main field.
The augmented size of the Tour and the faster pace of the pack in the 21st century build motorbikes less than ideal for surveillance the racing. Much of the time, I was peering up at it through woods of team car roof racks, each laden through 10 bikes and a brace of wheels.
But with 25 kilometers remaining in the contest, I witnessed a key moment up close and clear. Sagan attacked and split the break, leaving behind the 2014 Tour victor, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy. Rather cruelly, we pulled away from Nibali at too high a speed to catch the look on his face.
As for the end, like every vehicle following the Tour, we were turned off the course just short of the stop line. Revel’s maze of infrastructure and race-related blockades, however, made it impossible for us to locate our way back to the finish to observe Matthews squeeze out Sagan and win the stage.
Fortunately, the televisions in the press room had a replay.