The county town vibrated to welcome with dignity the arrival of the 16th stage of the Tour de France. Despite the heat, thousands of spectators responded.
A timeless popular success. For this 16th stage of the Tour de France, whose route borrowed some of the most emblematic passes of the Arieja, the party fulfilled all its promises. Including in Foix where the public came in large numbers to see the arrival of the riders and finally to see the solo victory of the Canadian Hugo Houle.
A final that will have deserved the wait, sometimes seemingly endless, of these thousands of spectators. Despite the oppressive heat, and even though Arieja was still under an orange heatwave watch, some had made the trip in the early hours of the morning.
Spectators settled in six hours in advance
Around 11 in the morning, the die-hards had already put their folding chairs on the edge of the alleys of Villote. Among them were Mikel, Maddi and their daughters, from the Basque Country. Located in the shade of the banana trees, in front of the town hall, the family of Spanish origin was already waiting impatiently for the arrival of the race.
“We are on holiday in the area and we come especially to see the Tour, confides the father of the family. We have been here for an hour now, and we have everything ready to stay. Annick and Jean, both from Vendée, did the same. In your fridge, enough to eat at noon and not lose the beautiful place already invested shortly before noon.
“We have been following the Grande Boucle for more than ten years. We like the sporting side but also the party that surrounds it, we know people and by force, we even know some members of the staff,” says Jean. Our grandson joins today. us.” News that delights Annick: “For all these years we have brought our children and now the grandchildren. It’s quite a symbol,” adds the septuagenarian.
A little further, family transmission is also essential. Nicolas, 44, from Appame, introduces his two grandsons, Évan, 4, and Soan, 3, to the magic of the Tour. As a true cycling fan, the young grandfather could not miss this moment in the prefecture city. “I took a week off on purpose for the Tour. Before, I took three to follow it in full, this year I couldn’t. But I had to be there and make people discover this party for kids” .
Party for the whole town
A party that lasted all afternoon, in the alleys of the county town. In the four corners of the city you could hear the voice of the Pastous choir singing their traditional Pyrenean songs, or the lively repertoire of the local band Cepos. Enough to make the public wait before the arrival of the inevitable caravan, also eagerly awaited. “We will burn, but we will be well placed”, announces a father to his children not far from the grain market. Like them, Olivier and Séverine, Bretons who came on holiday to Foix with their children, Manon and Théo, also positioned themselves in advance. “We would like gifts, especially sausages,” says the 14-year-old girl. They had to wait until 4 pm to finally see the first floats arrive, greeted by shouts of joy and applause. Half an hour later, Manon and Théo leave with their bags full, but no sausage in sight. “They’re happy, that’s the most important thing,” their parents conclude before approaching the finish line.
Under the imposing arch installed in front of the gendarmerie, impatience is at its height. A group of Colombians take every opportunity to wave their flag. Juan Guillermo, who came from Medellin, and Luis Angel, who has been living in France for some time, fervently await the victory of one of their three compatriots. Not counting the escape of the Canadian Hugo Houle, who by raising his arms at the finish line dragged down the group’s hopes. But this did not affect his good mood. Because the magic of the Tour is also to unite hearts beyond borders.
In the shadows, they contribute to this success
While Foix was still sleeping yesterday morning, the alleys of Villote were already lively. The technical areas, located in all the car parks of the Allées de Villote and the Champ-de-Mars, crisp. Security, media, electricity, food: it’s the equivalent of a small town that the Grande Boucle carries every day. It is true that the day before the arrival in Foix was a day of rest for the pilots. But not for technicians. “We didn’t celebrate yesterday: we checked the generators!” exclaimed a technician from the Lumex company, which supplies electricity to the entire technical area. With kilometers of cables to fold and unfold every day. “In fact, when we can, like yesterday, we start in the evening and finish in the morning, so that by 5.30 everything is ready”, he continues. He concludes: “We are the first to arrive and the last to leave…”
In these areas forbidden to the public, you can also find two men with their dog on a leash. “The idea is to sweep the technical area to detect explosives,” explains Olivier Roussel, manager of Europa Secur gos. “And then there are strategic points to be made, which we cannot reveal…” He concludes: “Until today we have not had any problems”.
Another strategic point: the dining rooms! Because the numerous troops must be fed. After the meal, while the caravan and the runners pass by, we meet the technicians lying on the deckchairs. Warriors rest. “In Foix, it’s under the trees. We’re lucky. In Mende, we were in full sun, at an airfield…”, smiles (yellow), surrounded. As soon as the runners arrived, he coiled the wires again. When Foix went back to sleep, the technical village had already packed up completely.