A small group of people dressed in Sunday best on a Monday morning spilled out of the Church of St. Martin in the city at the foot of the Pyrenees that is the center of the cycling world for the next 48 hours.
Pau has hosted the Tour de France more than 50 times, often for one of the two days of rest in the three-week race. It's a natural place to pause either before or after going into the mountains, as the riders are doing this year, and also is the site of Tuesday's stage finish.
In 1995, Pau was the place where a stunned Tour peloton rolled in as one subdued group, in neutral, with no taste for competition. Monday's churchgoers were there for a memorial service to mark the passage of 10 years since the day that a 24-year-old Italian Olympic champion lost traction and crashed on a descent in the Pyrenees, breaking his neck.
Fabio Casartelli's death became a touchstone in the career of his Motorola teammate Lance Armstrong, who pointed to the sky when he won a Tour stage in Limoges a few days later. Armstrong has often said he was motivated by anger early in his career; that win was different, as he converted another kind of emotion into competitive fuel.
The drama of that day has tended to eclipse the feelings of the rest of the Motorola team, several of whom are still involved with the Tour in various ways.
Britain's Sean Yates is the assistant team director for Armstrong's Discovery Channel team; Bobby Julich and George Hincapie, who rode for Motorola but were not on the '95 Tour roster, are accomplished veterans with CSC and Discovery respectively; and Frankie Andreu is at every stage start and finish, doing interviews for the Outdoor Life Network.
Motorola's roster included riders from 14 countries, many of whom were in their early to mid-twenties when their teammate died.
"It brought home the reality of just how dangerous this was, what we were doing," Andreu said. "You feel invincible. It never enters your head.
"The only reason we continued was because his wife wanted us to. The next day, all I can remember is crying on the bike, and seeing the output of emotion by the peloton."
Giovanni Mura, a veteran cycling writer for Rome's daily La Repubblica newspaper, said Casartelli was competing in his first Tour and many riders "didn't even know his face . . . but he was a bit like the unknown soldier. He died in a way that any of them could have died, and that, in my opinion, is the reason they reacted the way they did."
Former Motorola director Jim Ochowicz attended Monday's service, along with race director Jean-Marie Leblanc, five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault and other dignitaries, and took a helicopter to the accident site with race organizers, Casartelli's parents, his widow and his 10-year-old son, Marco, for a brief ceremony. Armstrong was expected to attend a small dinner for the same group.
Casartelli's death couldn't have been more public and it was marked in visible ways. The team carried his bike on the roof of a car for the rest of the race. A stone monument in the shape of a winged bike wheel marks the spot, and Tour organizers place flowers there each time the race passes by, most recently on Sunday.
The curve of the road has been softened and safer barriers placed at its edge. Pro Tour riders are now required to wear helmets at all times, although headgear probably wouldn't have saved Casartelli's life, according to Ochowicz.
Armstrong said he has preferred to keep his gestures private. He said he has visited Casartelli's gravesite in Italy "for a conversation, just him and me." Casartelli's son, whom Armstrong accurately described as "a carbon copy" of his late teammate, came to the race start village wearing Armstrong's gift of a yellow jersey.