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Driving the Tour de France, July 2: Credentials and car stickers

LES HERBIERS, France — The journey to the opening day of the Tour de France Media Center (Salle de Presse) is always an unknown. It’s the “chicken-before-the-egg” scenario of cycling’s grand affair.

Without a credential you can’t enter the media center and without a press sticker you can’t enter the media parking area to get your press pass.

In some years, I’ve had to park a mile away, talk my way into the facility, acquire my car stickers, walk back to the car, attach the stickers and then drive into the media parking area.

Driving the Tour de France, July 2: Credentials and car stickers 1
Front and back car stickers for the Tour de France. Images © James Raia

None of that occurred this year, which I’m taking as a good omen for the race. The drive from Nantes was only about an hour and about 45 miles. Just outside of Nantes, a young guy was hitchhiking, so I gave him a lift.

Turns out he’s a law student at the University of Paris, and was en route to visiting a friend near the ocean. His English was better than my French, but we talk on the way and I dropped him off just entering the finishing city of the first stage.

Unlike some cities, Tour de France signage was perfect into Nantes and I pulled into an adjacent parking for race organizers that was, as the French say, “sign posted.”

The Media Center was actually the next exit. There was no negotiation necessary.  I parked, had my press credential and parking stickers within minutes. Vive Le Tour.

The Tour de France has three levels of media passes — orange, blue and green, with the latter being the highest priority and requiring a race radio. My blue sticker allows all access, with the exception of not getting ahead of the cyclists on the road.

Despite an easier day than expected, I also expect somewhere on the route a French policeman (gendarme) will stop me at a media center, along a country road or in a small city. It’s part of the race, and part of the spirit of the adventure that is the Tour de France.

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