Walking out of our apartment and onto the beautifully cobbled street, we were yet again welcomed to Albi with a spectacular morning. It was a race day again and the village was abuzz. We walked to a new-found coffee shop adjacent to a park for bit of breakfast before heading to the line. The coffee shop has incredible pastries and coffee but has a bit of an odd name for its location: French Coffee Shop. Yes, just like that . . . in English. Whatever, they have great coffee. While sitting there enjoying a morning in our favorite French town, I looked across to the next table and there was Dan Lloyd from Global Cycling Network! Well, good morning to you, Dan! He was such a nice guy and agreed to take a picture with me. We talked for a bit, and I told him about the day before to which he replied, “Bloody hell, really?” I let Dan get on with his breakfast, and we made our way to the start line. It was still early but the crowd was forming. We caught a great spot on a wall that overlooked the start line and made our nest. The caravans were popping through every now and again, throwing items into the crowd. A french couple who spoke no English sat next to us, and I started a conversation. They were a few years older than we were and lived just outside of town. They were adorable, and we spent the morning catching things together and sharing. They were on a mission to get Tour items for their grandchildren. We had so much at this point that we had a blast just grabbing stuff for them.
The riders came to the line. Alaphillipe was still in yellow, and within a moment the peloton was on their way to Toulouse for what would be a sprint finish. After loading the car and leaving Albi, we took our time getting to Toulouse which was not that far away. Of course, by the time we made it, the street had been closed. Instead of walking our suitcases a few blocks, we decided to turn our car in and take an Uber to our apartment and rolled our suitcases down the sidewalk to the address of the Airbnb . . . which happened to be a few yards from the finish line! It was at this point that the crowd began betting on the boards and screaming. Holy smokes! The riders were closing in! I rushed to the fencing and watched the lead-out trains take their sprinters down the straightaway . . . guessing . . . in the neighborhood of 1800 watts, an incredible sight to see!
We dropped our bags into the apartment and left to explore. Toulouse had a different feel to it. One of those cities that could not make its mind up on which decade to advertise. Most of the fans had moved out of the area, so we walked up the fencing toward the finish line to find a place to eat dinner. A few hundreds yards down, we spotted a crowd. I asked a man in the group of people what was going on, and he replied that they were all “Ausies” and waiting for Caleb Ewan to come out after he won the sprint. Really? In only a few minutes, Caleb came riding up on his bike. He pulled up next to me and my wife and handed his bike to a mechanic. My wife sprang into action and asked for a picture. He kindly obliged.
Caleb is VERY down-to-earth guy who stood around and took time to let his fans know how much he appreciated them. He was tired and it was late. He really should be eating and hydrating for the next day, but he took time to sign things and take a picture with those who asked. Needless to say, we are now BIG Ewan fans.
As we walked to dinner, I looked at my wife. She smiled and shook her head. “We just took a picture with the winner of Stage 11 after we had a day like we had yesterday,” I said. “We’re so blessed. We could leave and go home right now, and I would feel extremely satisfied.” My wife replied that she felt the same way, but we both knew that we were leaving for Rome in the morning. What would be next? I would not be shocked at this point if we had breakfast with the Pope.