Since 2004 Daniel Alain has followed every stage of the Tour de France clocking up more miles than even the most ardent of superfan. Alain is an integral part of the race that no rider wants to acknowledge, and for him at least, he has the best seat in the house.
“In the broom wagon we see the race differently. There are two races really. There is the race in front, the race everyone sees on TV. And then there is the race behind. So many things happen behind. We live some amazing moments.” Ref www.pelotonmagazine.com
Whilst no longer a Citreon H van, the Voiture Balai was first introduced in the 1910 TDF, not really to help the struggling riders, but to look out for cheats! Rumors say that the organizer of the first Tour, Geo Leferve, introduced the wagon because when he had to catch a train whilst watching one of the stages, he found some of his fellow passengers were cyclists supposedly entered in the race! So he thought it would be beneficial to the Tour for a vehicle to follow the last riders of the race.
Today the Tour de France doesn’t need to worry so much about its riders catching trains during stages, but the Broom Wagon does still play an important and traditional role.
The Tour de France is cycling's biggest race, and no rider wants to quit, but for those who do climb aboard will find some much needed food, drink and blankets to keep warm on cold days, and a sympathetic ear from the driver! Despite its tinted windows riders in more recent years riders would prefer anything than being seen getting into the wagon, and prefer to exit the race by quietly getting into the back of one of their team cars.
Tomorrows stage is the second longest in this years route, and as the tour enters its last week there are some very weary men out there, lets hope that the wagon doesn’t have too many residents at the end of tomorrow’s stage.