The Tour de France Starts in Utrecht

Tour de France DomtorenToday’s big news is that the 2015 Tour de France will start off here in Utrecht. There’s been a lot of will they/won’t they going on for the past few weeks (months), but the official announcement came today.

To celebrate, the Domtoren has been festooned with yellow flags (in reference to the yellow jersey of the Tour de France). You can’t see the yellow flags that clearly in my photo, but I kind of dig the way the whole photo looks vaguely flat like an old-fashioned painted backdrop or stage set.

It’s not the first time we’ve had a bicycle race come through town. The Giro d’Italia passed through in 2010, but this will perhaps be a bit bigger, particularly as we’re the starting point. I wonder if they’ll ride on the Maliebaan, site of the first official bicycle path here in the Netherlands.
Chase Group

Giro D’Italia in Utrecht

25 To Go
Just a quick follow-up on the Giro D’Italia that came through Utrecht yesterday. Around mid-day I took Pippo out for his mid-day break and saw that the excitement was definitely starting to build. More and more people were out, especially for a Sunday, and the barriers were out lining the main street through town, down which the racers would pass. All, and I do mean all, of the Italian shops were open and making the most of it! Italian flags were flying, banners were out, specials were on offer. Even our Italian neighbors had hung the Italian flag outside their window. (G’s not that patriotic, so we have no flag to fly.)

A little later, G and I went out to wander around a bit further and see what was going on down at the Neude. We saw the 25km-to-go marker (above) over by Janskerkhof and as the road was still open to cyclists, many people passing under the 25km gate seemed to enjoy pretending a moment of greatness, riding through it with arms in the air. Further down, we found a huge crowd of all ages over at the Neude. There were lots of Red Bull marketing items, including some sort of bouncy toy for kids, but there were also beer stands for the adults. 😉 Naturally, there was a large screen so that people could watch the race while enjoying the festivities.
Neude Feest
We didn’t stick around for long, though, because Italian that he is, G wanted to get back home to see the Bologna football (soccer) match that was on that afternoon. It was an important match, after all; Bologna secured its spot in Serie A for next season and doesn’t have to worry about relegation now. It was a close thing. So while he was stressing over the Bologna match, I was watching the bicycle race on tv with my parents. The race would be passing by the end of our street, so I wanted to keep a close eye to make sure I could get down there in time to watch, but still be able to watch most of it on tv. As they got closer, I set the tv to record and finally with about a minute to go, G, my dad and I hurried down the street and then rushed to find a free spot in order to see the racers speed by.
Giro D'Italia

Chase Group

Go Speed Racer
Lousy photos, I know, and that was with the sports/action setting turned on! They went so fast! Watching tv, it looked like there were a lot more of them, but when they passed in person, it looked like a much smaller group. We really did see all of them, though! Blink and you’d miss them is what it felt like. We were surprised at just how fast it was; we were also surprised at just how many support vehicles bring up the rear! I got video of the last few racers and most of the support vehicles, along with a few shots of the helicopters hovering overhead.

Unfortunately, despite recording it, we didn’t get to see the part we were at on tv, because one of the racers had fallen earlier and they were showing him rather than the tiny bit where we were! Still, we recognized Biltstraat and some of the other areas in town, which was kind of exciting.

One of my favorite moments of the whole experience is probably when the last two police went past on bicycle. All of the racers and support vehicles and everything else had gone by, and then these two lone police officers rode past and as they approached, the crowd started cheering in much the same way as they did when the racers themselves arrived. It was a nice moment of group-think humor and even the police seemed to get a laugh out of it.

Utrecht, Italian Style

Giro Di Sinkel
Friday night we took my parents to De Muntkelder, the fun pannenkoekenhuis (pancake restaurant) on the Oudegracht. It’s one of those things you just have to do with visitors. Afterward, we headed over to Graaf Floris for Irish coffee and appelbollen. As we got to Winkel van Sinkel I couldn’t help but notice a bit of decoration strung up. I also noticed a couple of bikes up on one of the railings. Oddly enough, I didn’t at first think of the bikes as decoration; I found myself assuming they’d been strung up there by some random person being silly. After all, it’s not the first time I’ve seen bikes in strange places here.
Parallel Parking
However, I soon realized that those bikes were supposed to be there, and the decoration was there to celebrate the Giro D’Italia bicycle race that is making an appearance here in the Netherlands this weekend. (The first stop is often in a country outside of Italy.) The riders are going from Amsterdam to Utrecht and should be going through the city center here later this afternoon. In fact, they should be passing the end of my street, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a glimpse of it all if the crowds aren’t too deep (and tall).

Meanwhile, the city is covered in pink, the color of the Giro D’Italia. There are Ronde Van Italië (Dutch way of saying Giro D’Italia) flags and banners up all over town, along with lots of independent displays, including some nice show window displays. Even the Domtoren has been lit pink in the evenings.
Giro Domtoren
Pink
Winkel Van Sinkel