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Jul. 4, 2013
Tour de France Stage 6 Recap, July 4 - Aix-En-Provence to Montpellier
Blame an attractive high school French teacher and early exposure to the films of Francois Truffaut for Matt Walsh's francophile tendencies. Then later came bike racing and watching the grandest race of all, the Tour de France. So as a freelance writer, there’s pretty much no place he’d rather be than in France on the race routes of Le Tour. It’s always an adventure that goes full-gas.

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Traveling the roads of the Tour de France, you know that each day will bring certain expected things. In looking back at the day, with all the excitment of the yellow jersey changing hands -- although staying in the same Orica-GreenEdge team -- my memory will be of the kids from the elementary school in Paradou.

tdf 6 3

I drive every day for three to four hours and in that time I pass so many cool and interesting groups of people and I’m often tempted to stop and hear the stories. I was probably hitting 90 kilometers an hour as I blasted along this particular road but the cheers were so loud.

I pulled over and they got louder. They’d made their cardboard signs and fashioned their special Tour messages. It only seemed pre-ordained that their teacher was named Natalie and that she was charming. The Tour is many things but the boundless enthusiasm of the kids made today special.

It was fun to drive the last two kilometers into Montpellier knowing that a few hours later sprint trains would be fighting for high speed position. You go up a small rise and know that changes the dynamics of the sprint. You say, ahh, that’s perfect for Peter Sagan or that tight corner is ideal for a well-drilled team like Lotto-Belisol and sprinter Andre Greipel. You don't get that from the television images.

tfd day 6

On this day of Independence back home, I’m also reminded of the extreme luxury and good fortune to be chasing this amazing race across and around France. There’s a heady freedom in having a rental car and credential to join the greatest bike race in the world. It’s an honor just to share these same roads with athletes who have trained for ten years to reach this level.

Now, a final personal note. I’ve been to Montpellier once before and my GPS almost blew up. There was so much road construction going on that no matter what my GPS directed, it was an impossible request. What was calculated as a 15 minute drive took and hour and I nearly lost my mind.

So I tried to learn from my errors by booking a hotel further out of town. Failure again. The GPS does well with distinct addresses but the one I had was too vague for satellite definition. It was deja vu all over again and I almost decided to find another hotel and eat the cost. Finally I pulled into a parking lot and asked a women who was walking to her car. She said follow me and in three blocks I’d found that elusive hidden hotel. I could have kissed her.

That is the Tour in a nutshell, a mountainous hors categorie microcosm of life: ups and downs coming fast and furious. The goal is to rise above, right?
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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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