The Tour de France rolls into town in a few weeks’ time and once again you’ll see those magnificent men on their cycling machines taking on the best the mountains can throw at them. There’s no Mont Ventoux on the route this year but back in 2009 there was … and we painted a big Union Flag across the road near the top of it! And you could too!
We’d always planned to visit the penultimate stage of the Tour that year (Montélimar to Mont Ventoux), flying into Marseille and driving up the mountain before heading straight to the final stage along the Champs Élysée. I hadn’t planned to paint a flag in the early hours of the morning, but maybe my friend Al maybe had. So at the base of the mountain he suggested we buy some red and blue gloss paint, some white emulsion, a roller and a paint tray before heading on up the course.
The three of us overnighted in our Fiat Punto hire car but not before our artwork had been laid down on the tarmac just below Chalet Reynard.
In the end it was just me and Al who had the commitment to stay awake and put “paint to tarmac” and so it was just before midnight that we began. Admittedly the English flag might have been easier to replicate, rather than the unexpectedly intricate Union Flag, what with it’s thinner and thicker white edges. We had a cloth Union Flag with us so that was laid out on the floor for us to gauge how and where we should roll out our design. Our head torches serving extremely useful in the dark, mountainous night.
Halfway through creating our masterpiece we were interuppted by some French Gendarmerie approaching in their blue police car. We instantly assumed the game was up, or worse, but they simply wanted to know which side of the road to drive on to cause least damage to the drying paint. Now that was rather nice of them! So don’t worry! Painting the road is perfectly allowable during “the Tour” in France.
However I did make a rash decision to slop some thicker white emulsion on the first ‘G’ of ‘WIGGO’ out of sheer laziness which lead to a car leaving a tyre print off the bottom edge of the flag but I’ll let myself off for that.
Adding to our enjoyment was subsequently finding out that Phil Liggett had mentioned our artwork on ITV4 as the live TV helicopter flew overhead.
“As the flag of the United Kingdom is on the road there and they’re there for Bradley Wiggins and he’s right here”
Even better than the ITV4 mention was it consequently appearing on Google Maps! Using the history function (which shows the same stretch of road over the years) we could even see how long it took for the flag to disappear. About 4 years in this case, with the red and blue gloss paint lasting longer than the white emulsion.
- Take a head torch
- Take an actual flag with you if that will help you with your design
- Buy the paint when you arrive
- Use gloss paint to make your image last that little bit longer
- Don’t worry about the Gendarmerie stopping you
- Paint your design later at night when less cars are driving backwards and forwards
- Enjoy watching lots of people taking photos with your artwork the next day
- See if it appears live on the TV or in the highlights package
- Check out Google Maps a few months later to see if it’s still there
Anybody else ever done a spot of road painting? 🙂 And if you’ve liked this post check out my experience of cycling up Alpe d’Huez, plus riding around London with Tour de France winner Cadel Evans!
Read more about the famous mountain in Jeremy Whittle’s book Ventoux