- Tom Hull — Projects
I knew it was summer, as a child, when I'd walk home from school on a hot July day and my mum would be sat watching the vibrant, luminous colours of the many cyclists, packed tightly together, flying along beautiful, rural French lanes, depicted on our wooden-framed TV in the back room.
It was the daily coverage of the Tour de France. The world's most prestigious cycling event, and perhaps one of the most well-coordinated sporting extravaganzas you could ever expect to witness. A true national show.
To be honest, for a long time, I could never really understand the enjoyment people gleaned from watching sport, I always much preferred to take part. And although my mum never really appeared to take part in much sport herself, the fact she clearly enjoyed watching sports on television made me watch too. I suppose it was this nostalgic memory that made me want to feel the atmosphere and see the spectacle first hand, to appreciate why she loves it so much.
I was also never quite sure, why if someone didn't do the sport, they then liked that sport. But I think I came to realise, year on year, that it wasn't always the punishment, the physical endurance and sheer doggedness of the athletes that was of primary concern, but moreover the stunning views of unimaginable French wealth, displayed by the various hidden chateaus dotted through the countryside that brought her the most enjoyment.
Fortunately for me, when I met my partner, Laura, she also shared that sentimental memory of watching the Tour de France as a child, growing up in the 1980s. We'd chatted a number of times about driving over to Europe and watching it live, so one year, we acted on that thought and took a trip in our van to Belgium, where the 2017 race began.
Wanting to capture something of the pageantry of it all, Laura and I drove to Liège in Belgium, for stage two of the tour, found a great spot to set up and I began wandering through the crowds, chatting with people from all over Europe about why they were there, what they loved about cycling and what the institution of the Tour de France meant to them.
For me, it was the fascination of why and how people became so excitable when the caravan rolled past, throwing 'gifts' to people. In truth, gifts that you'd highly unlikely look at twice after the event, but still, it was their slice of the event to take home as a souvenir. Even when biblical rains descended on us all, everyone stuck it out, waited patiently for over four hours for the riders, and after 30 seconds, they were gone, the festival had passed and it was time to wait for another year.
Or, as Laura and I did, drive to the next point, this time for the roll-out in Verviers on the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, to witness it all again, this time in blazing summer sun! We loved it, we're even more hooked now than we were when we were children, and I know we'll be back for more again soon!