Growing up in Austin, Texas, you couldn’t help but know about the Tour de France. In fact, while I was in school it might have been more appropriately named the Tour de Lance. For seven years in a row, our hometown hero conquered professional cycling’s most prestigious race. After a three year retirement from racing, Lance came back and took to the road one more time.

Riding for the Astana team, he found himself paired with the world’s top rider, Alberto Contidor. After a brief battle for top position, Lance conceded and took up a support role, helping Contidor to win the yellow jersey.

I arrived at the Arc de Triomphe around 10:30am in preparation for the big finale along the Champs Elysées. I hoped to arrive early enough to get a good spot and simply camp out until the riders arrived later that afternoon. Crowds were already starting to gather, and many had come prepared with lawn chairs and coolers full of food. I, on the other hand, had only two apples to tide me over until it was over.

Danish Cycling Fans Dressed Like Vikings

Danish Cycling Fans Dressed Like Vikings

A Fellow Texan Near Me

A Fellow Texan Near Me

Fans Continue to Gather Along the Champs Elysées

Fans Continue to Gather Along the Champs Elysées

I was really lucky and wound up at the end of the Champs Elysées where the riders made their turn and loop back in the other direction. It meant that for a brief moment, the riders had to slow down and look directly at where I’d be standing.

And there I stood… for almost 7 hours.

I thought the riders were supposed to reach Paris around 2:30/3pm. Apparently I got my facts wrong. A little after 3pm, we got a short parade of marketing sponsors, but no riders.

Giant Bicycle Rider in Parade

Giant Bicycle Rider in Parade

Haribo Candy Company

Haribo Candy Company

Some French Company

Some French Company

Another Giant Bicyclist

Another Giant Bicyclist

Brief Moment of Refreshment

Brief Moment of Refreshment

I think it took until 4:45 for the riders to finally reach me. They did 8 laps of the Champs Elysées so I had as many chances to try and snap a few pictures of Lance and the rest. In the end, I managed a couple of good one.

Stage Leaders Make Their First Loop

Stage Leaders Make Their First Loop

The Peloton (Lance on the Right)

The Peloton (Lance on Right in Light Blue with Black/Yellow Helmet & Black Socks)

The Peloton

The Peloton (Lance in the Center)

Stage Leaders Make Their Second Lap

Stage Leaders Make Their Second Lap

Alberto Contidor and Members of the Astana Team

Alberto Contidor and Members of the Astana Team

Stage Leaders on Their 3rd Lap

Stage Leaders on Their 3rd Lap

Contidor in the Peloton

Contidor in the Peloton

Contitor and the Astana Team

Contitor and the Astana Team

The Peloton (Lance in the Back Left)

The Peloton (Lance's Head in the Back Left)

Lance on the Outside Edge

The Peloton Makes Another Turn

The Peleton

The Peloton (Lance on the Left, Behind the Guy in Red)

The Peloton

The Peloton on It's Final Lap

When I finally left a little after 6pm, I was dehydrated, hungry, and heat exhausted, but I got to catch a glimpse of Lance and be a part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was well worth it.