A handsome young man is gyrating for all he’s worth on the back of a flatbed truck, miming taking a shower.
Thankfully, for decency’s sake, he is wearing a skimpy pair of shorts. He smiles, jiggles around to the Europop thumping out of the mobile speakers and plays to the crowd assembled roadside, hoping a mini sachet of Xtra washing detergent might get tossed their way.
Jonathan Cusigny is an actor, but for the next three weeks, he will be miming his daily ablutions in front of millions of spectators. “I am playing in the theatre, so this is a job for the summer for the money. All the way to Paris,” he confidently predicts. “Our job is very cool. They come 50 per cent for the caravan and 50 per cent for the sport.”
As there was a lengthy downpour of rain earlier in the day, there’s a good chance young Cusigny was cooler than he might like. And wetter. “The show must go on!” our shivering thespian hollers, before reaching into the truck for a hoodie.
It’s his first Tour. Will he still be smiling having wiggled his way through two mountain ranges whilst twirling around an aluminium pole for another 3,000km to the same mind-numbing soundtrack? “After two more weeks, I don’t know,” he responds. But it’s an acting job, and he is the consummate professional.
We wish Jonathan all the best, promise to catch up with him again in the Pyrenees and talk to team leader Olivier Simon. It’s his fourth Tour, second as a manager and probably his last, as he starts new employment in September. “There is no job like it,” Simon says, finding co-ordinating four cars and a truck on their circuit of France infinitely more interesting than the roadshows and product launches that form the rest of his year’s work.
He has done two Tours for Xtra, preceded by publicising a movie and, before that, throwing out bracelets for 2007’s London Grand Départ. “You have three minutes gap from one product to the next. Today we had the big bus from Xtra, so everything had to be perfect,” he says, leaning against his truck that sports a small dent in the front offside panel. Luc, the vehicle decorator, sidles up, looking decidedly unimpressed.
A big-haired driver from one of the Xtra cars – a fleet of soft-top VW Beetles with giant bottles of detergent perched precariously on the boot – joins us to provide his take on the madness in the mountains.
“There are so many people on the last few kilometres of the climbs,” says Hair Bear. “When you are driving the lead car, it is like a sea opening in front of you. You always have to be vigilant.
“Sometimes they are drunk when they have been waiting a long time. I drove over a guy’s foot one time. He was too close and I couldn’t turn in time. But just the one time,” he says, sheepishly.
It could have been worse. We hotfoot it out of there to catch the stage finish, all of our digits intact.
Will Jonathan make it all the way to Paris? Part two to follow…