Going into the Pyrenees, I'm quite happy I quit cycling. To be honest I stopped missing the Tour de France. I even stopped missing it the last three years I raced it. I mean, the Pyrenees is a terrible half. I always liked the Alps more. It's beautiful here, but it's always a bit warmer here too. The asphalt is a little bit worse, and the climbs are a little bit steeper. It's like a sauna here, you know, it's just unbelievable. But the area here is beautiful, you can say that as a sports director because you have time to look around.
The big crowd amazes me year after year. More and more every year, and not just on the weekends. You might say "why do people stand here for five hours, isn't it boring?" But I remember clearly, when I was standing here with Bjarne Riijs — it must have been 1999 or 2000 — we went down to see the crowd together. Keep in mind, Bjarne won the Tour in 1996. I was his teammate. So, we went down in a car on a mountain, I was standing waiting. It was amazing watching the race. We were getting goosebumps. I remember Bjarne said to me, "amazing. I never understood as a rider how they could stand for many hours as we came by." You realize a lot of things when you stop. All these things you would never notice as a cyclist, because you're concentrated. You don't see the public the same way.
On the Pyrenees, you see the Basque coming around. You see a lot of Danish and Basque people here. Between the fans with the big flags, I always think about, how do you remember them? Some of them with the long sticks! Where do they put them to get them here? In their suitcase? Some come in the big campers, you know. I always forget a lot of things, but how would you always remember to bring a flag? I really believe some nationalities are more proud of their flags than others. We show the pride of the country with the flag. I think the Danish flag is the oldest flag in the world. it's a long story. Danish is the oldest, and then the Norwegian flag, and then other countries got the same idea and made one up. But, the Danish was the first. It's the most beautiful. Keep that in mind.