When choosing a spot on the side of the road to watch the tour go by, you need to choose very carefully. If you find somewhere on a flat section of road, the race will go by in a flash and you won't see much. If you go into the final km's of a climb there is generally so many people that you can't find your own section of road.
As a result, we set up camp in the town of Briancon at the base of stage 18's final climb up the col de Galibier. The riders will be strung out going slowly past as they begin the climb and there was (relatively) fewer people around.
But there is another thing that you need to take into account when choosing a place to watch... Where is going to give you the best opportunity to catch free stuff?!
2hrs before the race rolls by, a caravan of publicity cars and sponsor promotions drives the race course. It keeps those that have been waiting for hours on end entertained and they also throw samples and free stuff out as they go. From hats and keyrings, to samples of laundry detergent and newspapers, there is a constant stream of freebies for more than 30mins. Cars in the shape of ducks, giant chickens, water bottles and a plethora of other shapes drive by with music blaring as people in the back dance and throw the items. How they keep this up for 5hrs a day for three weeks is amazing.
So on the side of the road in Briancon, we were not well positioned for catching the free stuff. We had to battle small children and an elderly couple that seemed to catch everything. I'm pretty sure he used to be a baseball player.
After a while, you get that kind if rage where you know you are doing the right thing but it still annoys you and there is nothing you can do about it. Like giving your seat to an elderly person on the bus or letting an upset child watch their cartoons when a game is on.
Fortunately, we were a lot luckier the next day on Alp d'Huez. A company was wanting sone promotional shots as the tour rolled past so they set up a large banner behind us with their logos all over it. As the caravan rolled by and threw out all the freebies, the banner acted like a giant net, catching everything that was thrown and dropping it conveniently at our feet. We didn't have to do a thing.
We hit the mother load and many people saw this. You could see the jealously in their eyes, but like us the day before; they just had to shut up and accept it.