Confessions of a Tour rider’s girlfriend…

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As we approach another edition of the Tour de France, we will be publishing some online features relating to the race. These are from regular contributors to RIDE Cycling Review as well as readers who have stories that they’d like to share about their experience(s) with the event. If you have any anecdotes you’d like to share, feel free to send your story to RIDE’s publisher.

The second installment comes from Kaitlin Bell – an Australian girl who met a Dutch man who races a bike for a job. Her partner is Koen de Kort who is part of the Argos-Shimano team and is expected to start his second Tour de France in 2012. Kaitlin now works for BikeStyle Tours and she explains how the race influences her life…

Koen de Kort, leading 'The Escape' of the Tour's third stage in 2009. PHOTO: Yuzuru Sunada.

Koen de Kort, leading 'The Escape' of the Tour's third stage in 2009. PHOTO: Yuzuru Sunada.

One big reason to watch the Tour…

I love the Tour. Of course I love it because my partner will take part in it, but also for the dedication, commitment, pain and sacrifice these men give for this three-week race, is indescribable. It’s not just these three weeks but it takes months of preparation and sacrifice for a rider to take their best shot at the Tour de France. I’ve seen that all first-hand with Koen but this is undoubtedly the same for every single other rider at the start in Liège on 30 June. The sacrifices that any rider personally makes but also what we – the partners and families – sacrifice is all part of the job, for that one shot at a good performance… vacations, family time, or even not being able to eat out to stick to a particular diet plan, it all gets compromised for that one goal.

But to see him riding down the Champs-Elysées at the end makes it was all worth while – that feeling is magical!

This year will be an extra special year for our relationships because this will be the first year we will both be involved with the Tour de France. When Koen raced there in 2009 I fell in love with it so much I just wanted to be part of it. With my background in event management I really wanted to show people around in the Tour, let them have that magical feeling as well. I have been lucky enough to work during the Tours of 2010 and 2011 as a guide for guests but, unfortunately, Koen wasn’t able to do the Tour during these two years.

This year it looks like Koen will be taking part and I will be working for BikeStyle Tours, an Australian company that takes guests to various points to watch the race but guests also get a chance to ride the course just prior to the real race. I’m so excited to be involved with the whole event again, this time along with Koen!

Most of our guests at BikeStyle Tours are Australian but I am hoping to bring a little Dutch flavour I picked up in recent years in Europe to the trip and get some extra supporters for Koen. I will try and persuade them with stroopwafels, drop (licorice), and other Dutch treats. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll have to step it up and provide my guests with team merchandise and rider signatures, as long as they yell for Koen!

Being Australian and having a Dutch partner leaves me in a pickle with who to support during the Tour, but I will be there with two flags flying high, but the Dutch flag will be the biggest (I’m saying that just in case Koen is reading this).

The colour, fun and excitement in the Tour is something special, something I’d love to show everyone. Crazed fans in funny costumes, children wide-eyed at such a spectacle and hoping to catch the goodies thrown from the publicity caravan that passes a while before the race. Not to mention some adults who will, without hesitation, tackle you to the ground if you get in their way of some promotional item like a sachet of washing liquid or key ring. Be warned… you will come home with bumps and bruises as the “throws” of free items are solid! But hey, who doesn’t love free stuff!

After the caravan has passed the riders won’t be far off. More and more cars and motorbikes pass until you can see the helicopter that hovers over the peloton come closer and closer up to the amazing moment you can see the riders coming up. It’s great to look around and see the pure joy and excitement on all these faces around you, this must be amazing: what else can make so many people so excited about a glimpse of a favourite rider or just the sight and sound of a passing peloton for which they have very often waited for many hours.

I don’t think I will ever get tired of this especially when my partner is riding there!

Social networking, especially Twitter, does make things easier during the wait for the riders, or even when I’m sitting at home watching one of Koen’s many other races.

For a partner it’s the quickest way to get any information – whether it’s a race update, time check or, knock on wood, a crash. In 160 characters, you ask a question, and within seconds there is a reply from someone with more information or with a better view of the situation.

During the Tour in 2009 – stage three, Marseille to La Grande-Motte (pictured above) – I was on route driving to the finish when someone “tweeted” me that Koen was in a breakaway! I got so excited and wanted to see the action so much that something was bound to go wrong and… the car broke down! Thanks to Twitter, I had all the updates whilst sitting in the hot French sun feeling very sad and sorry for myself. Thanks to Twitter a Belgium TV crew was even trying to get through a traffic jam to pick me up and get me to the finish. Unfortunately, I stayed roadside into the evening and the breakaway was caught in the final kilometres but at least I knew exactly what happened in the race.

It’s great to be part of such a great sporting event. It’s the biggest annual sporting event in the world, watched live by many people in lots of different countries. Many of my friends and family back home in Australia are already stocking up on good night sleeps and putting in for late starts during the three weeks of July.

So thankful I live in the same time zone and can actually see the race first hand!

The Tour de France truly is “The Greatest Race on Earth”.

Enjoy… I will!

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Author: rob@ride

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