Saturday, July 18, 2009

TDF 2009:The Tour is More than just Le Tour

Behind the Scenes, Stage 13 and 14, TDF 2009

Yesterday’s tour stage was the first that BBB was able to report on in person, and we can tell you this: it was a mixture of miserable with a dash of mud, and a spritz of good old positive thinking.

Why so? It may be a dream to come to the Tour de France but the reality is, though the action is where the riding is, it is a far cry from being either a reporter of it or even a fan.

For one, fans were made to stand for hours under a pouring rain at the finish line, and many of them were caught unaware of weather. Though some had jackets, many were soaked to the bone before the first rider came in.

The Tour is more than just the riders who come through the finish line. BBB had an opportunity to catch up to some of the people who support the Tour: one was the driver Patrick Ringeval for Tour primary sponsor, Vittel who has paid more than 3 million Euros for the right to spread their name and their water all over the towns of France.

Yesterday Ringeval took Hubert Geyneys, the manager of Nestle Waters which includes Nestle, Vittel, Perrier, and San Pellegrino, whom he said thought the stage was “unbelievable.”

The Tour is big business for business, including Nestle who owns Vittel, the namesake of the town it is made in, where Vittel operates the biggest water producing factory in the world according to Ringeval.

Nestle Water has also been sponsoring the tour non stop since 2001, though the focus on the Vittel brand at the Tour is a first for the company.

In addition to the sponsor money, the company distributes more than 60,000 bottles of water along the route, has 30 VIP cars, and about 8 big trucks with floats on them that travel ahead of the riders along the same route.

In all, 150 million objects are given out along the route by the publicity caravan vehicles, whose displays range from funny to ridiculous, but never fail to entertain, even in the pouring rain.

Resembling a mix between the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons and the types of truck based displays in the Rio de Janeiro festivals, these traveling shows feature men on bikes, giraffes on bikes, and women spraying the crowds with yet more water (in the rain).

And it’s not just the sponsors that are pouring money into this event. The Amaury Sports Organization that organizes the Tour has the right to make and sell tzotzskis—souvenirs---in the form of anything Yellow with the Tour de France logo.

Lise Vial, 25, works on one of the 8 mini vans that rolls out everyday before the start of the tour, and then later at the finish, to sell “kits” for 20 Euros, including a yellow hat, a T-shirt, a key chain with a TDF bear, a cell phone cleaner, and a yellow wristband.

She is among 60 other young people who are hired by ASO to ply the wares in every single town they go through, she said. Although she would not reveal how much each truck makes, she says each day each truck—and each one of the 60 stationary stores set up at the start and finish towns—sell about 200 to 300 kits a day.

Vial who lives in Paris says she likes the work because it allows her to understand how to make a big event work—though she has little interest in cycling.


Jym said...

=v= The first photo is intriguing. It looks like a suboptimal way to serve food and beer, and what are those eyeballs doing on the handlebars?

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