There is something special about a tour town.
When we arrived in Morzine on Thursday afternoon, it was alive with downhill mountainbikers. They rode around the streets all armoured up (but without their helmets... go figure...). Some of the local businesses had strung yellow cloth from their balconies and doors, but apart from that it seemed a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Tour de France.
Not for long, though, as the town transformed before the Avoriaz 'arrivee' on Sunday.
Over the weekend more and more of the yellow appeared around the town. Hotels started placing welcome signs in their windows. (One even disclosed the intended lodging of Lance Armstrong... really? He didn't seem to stay with the team at the Hilton for the Tour Down Under...).
The downhillers were still abundant, but before too long were outnumbered by their cousins in lycra. And before too much longer, the town was packed with the tour entourage - the trucks...
the cars, the team buses and... the cyclists. And, their bikes.
In Morzine, we found out what's in the back of the trucks. Apart from the mechanics' workshops, we found out that Team Saxobank uses one of their trucks to haul around a fully equipped commercial kitchen. And we found out that some LCL Lions, which are presented along with the yellow jersey to the leader of the general classification of the Tour each day, get the best seat in the team bus.
Cities right across France, and even in the surrounding countries, are chosen by tour organisers based on many criteria. Presumably their location and the surrounding terrain is a deciding factor, but in recent years cities have bid for the right to host the tour, most famously London in 2007. Cities as far away as Tokyo have expressed interest in hosting the Grand Depart to kick off the tour.
For these cities it's about attracting tourists. Morzine's effort this year was a test case for Annecy's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
But more than anything, for French cities, hosting the Tour de France is a matter of pride. Yes, there's something special about a tour town...