Tour de France | The morning after.

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When I decided to follow the Tour de France and created 21 Days of Cycling Art I knew it would be an enormous project and didn’t take it lightly. Jumping both feet into my first trip to France along with the task of creating three drawings each day based on where we were, who we where with and what was happening in the stage was a huge undertaking to say the least.

We got the job done.

 

I say we because while I may have wielded my pen and brush and stood in the limelight the hard work of moving us around the country and keeping us fed, in beer and connected fell on my two friends. Harm Job and Keith Boardway. To the both of them I owe an enormous debt of gratitude. Thank you gentlemen for your dedicated service, gentle reminders for me to chill and your sense of humor.

 

 

What’s the Caravan?

 

If you’ve never experienced the Tour de France caravan it’s hard to imagine. Think for a moment that you live in a small rural village in the Pyrenees, the kind of place that looks like they would shoot a WWII movie. Complete with tank stopping rock walls and empty shells for buildings that are simply perfect in their dilapidated state. The French even make abandoned buildings and rotting barns look simply amazing.

Anyway, you live in the middle of nothing and an hour long circus train complete with blaring music, beautiful tanned French women dancing on floats that look like giant chickens are whizzing past at thirty miles an hour throwing t-shirts and hats at you. You go crazy. The kind of crazy that makes men in their 70’s dive in front of a four-year-old to grab a key-chain with a cow on it. And then scream “HA!” in the crying child’s face.

And every day we were exposed to this madness, this base-instinct driven lust for free stuff. And every day I said, “no not today, I’m not getting involved.” And then it happens again, the chickens come by, the girls dance and we leaped into action gathering all the free junk we could for 21 days in a row. Greed, and the Tour de France Caravan, is good.

 

Pictures are a universal language.

 

I speak no French, no German, no Dutch and as I found out, apparently very little British. But communicating my passion for the Tour de France was as easy as drawing a picture.

From a group of local farmers in Les Piards, that invited us for drinks in the garage. (Note to self, buy some fortified wine it’s very good.) To a group of cycling Brits staying in a delightful B&B called the Le Closier, in Barth de Neste, Pyrenees. To Fred, the 94-year-old British father of our hosts Sue and Reg. To the young Belgium woman I met at the start of the stage in Embrun – communication with or without words is possible when there is a shared passion for something and in this case a passion for the Tour de France.

 

 

My drawings brought people together. The oddity of an artist in the middle of this madness called the Tour drew people to my side every day – and we connected. With a smile, with a nod or a thumbs up or with an odd word like “tickity-boo”. We all connected and spoke the universal language of interest and passion for cycling.

 

 

Oh and there were bikes too.

 

I keep looking back at my photos of the trip and notice the ratio of cycling related videos and photos are about two in every ten of something else. I was at the Tour de France and was more interested in watching the race fly past me than take photos of it. Maybe because I knew the photos wouldn’t do it justice – but most likely it’s because –

the best way to really experience something is not through a lens – it’s through your senses.

I tuned out the noise and cameras and tuned into the raw power of the world’s best cycling athletes’ motor past me so close I could almost touch them. It was exhilarating.

 

 

My cycling heroes and villains alike shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip as we chased them for over 2,800 miles in a MoHo. Carving our way across a magical landscape of castles and sunflowers, mountains and farms. A rolling world of amazing sights and ‘did you see thats!’

Every day I experienced this for 21 Days of Cycling Art and the only word I know that sums it up completely is — “wow”.

 

 

Will I go back for more?

 

Hell yes, I’ll be back again.

 

If you’d like to see Original Art from 21 Days of Cycling Art that is still available click through on this linkORIGINAL TDF CYCLING ART

 

If you’d like to see more photos and stories watch for my upcoming digital book – 21 Days of Cycling Art | Tour de France 2017 – Available Soon.

Follow Michael Valenti:

Father, husband, cyclist and artist. 35 years creating images and building brands for all kinds of companies. Loves Cycling Art and has a passion for riding bicycles.

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