In the end we chose a spot down the road a bit from the refreshment station. Actually it was down the road, over two bridges, through two-right angled turns and then round a curve up a bit of a rise; about two and a fraction minutes by racing bike, right where we thought we might see some riders discarding their bags. We made sure were there an hour before the “Caravan” was due.
The Caravan is a city festival parade on, if I may indulge in a bit of old cycling jargon, steroids. Imagine a half-hour long parade of festival floats travelling at fifty kilometres per hour, with one or more waving princess bolted to the structure in three or more point harnesses, madly trying to stay ahead of the even madder blokes on their bikes racing up behind,. Simple mathematics says that this procession is twenty five kilometres long, but I digress. To the above mix, add the princesses trained trinket throwers spraying valueless souvenirs of dubious manufacturing origin into the crowd as they go.
There seems to be some sort of understanding that trinket hitting someone in the eye at that speed could take the edge of someone’s day, so the trinkets magically land at the feet of small children who have then only to wrestle their valueless prizes from the clutches of a certain foreigner of grandmotherly disposition, and a good time is had by all.
An hour later, in time for most of the trinkets to be broken or eaten, the wait was over.
As I had hoped, predicted or just wished, meal bags were being discarded at precisely our location, (one was kindly discarded directly into my lap by a team Movistar legend, unwittingly fulfilling one of the saddest lifelong fantasies a person could have), riders were distributing packs among their team up and down the bunch, eating, sifting through their menus, swapping lunch notes, socialising, texting their mums and generally getting on with racing for another few hundred kilometres.
Time may not have stood still, but it certainly slowed for a while. We felt that we were actually a part of the event. We felt as though we were there.
Afterwards, out of curiosity because my photographs also reinforce the illusion that time, and the riders are moving equally slowly, I checked their timestamps. From the time I took the first shot of the approaching riders, until the last had passed, eighteen seconds had elapsed. Eighteen seconds that felt like minutes.
Eighteen seconds, one hundred and eighty-six cyclists.
We may have waited three days for this, but it will be much longer than that before we actually understand what happened!