|Apparently there was an 'Event' happening in London!|
It’s been almost a week since we attended the greatest cycling show on Earth. Between then and now there have been thrills and spills, big names are out, places are being fought out and last Monday seems a bit like a distant dream!
So, Le Tour was always part of my childhood Summer family viewing – the only sporting event that we ever followed. I kind of lost touch a bit in the early 1990’s but regained the passion and have been faithfully following it each year from the armchair! Every year we would say ‘we MUST go and actually see it in real life!’
|Free yellow caps? Check!|
Well, you can hardly have failed to notice that this year the Grand Depart was in the UK, starting in Yorkshire and finishing Day Three in London. No excuse not to join in this time then! DS#1, DD and I decided we would do it.... cue lots of studying of the route, checking out tips and hints. Should we find a less busy place to view en route? Should we brave the very centre of London itself? Fan Park (with giant screen and added entertainment but not seeing the actual action itself) or roadside viewpoint in the capital (lots of waiting for 30 seconds of action)? In the end we decided to go with the flow – make our way to London on the morning and scope out the possibilities.
We left Oxford at a most unsociable hour but it meant we beat most of the rush hour traffic into the capital and managed to have time for a cooked breakfast to set us up for the day. We followed the route until we reached The Mall where the finish line was to be. I have never been so excited! All the lorries and TV equipment was there in place, the gantry over the finish line which they were busy painting onto the road (the actual TdF finish line!!) and the podium was set up.... people were beginning to bag spots and so we had decisions to make. The podium had TV screens which were to show the day’s action and it was placed just along from the finish line. We figured from this point we would see everything... so we settled in for the day. Hiring a couple of deckchairs from the Park Keeper was the best decision ever. Comfort and a way to keep the crowds from squishing us. There were even portaloos and stalls close by.
Any worries that 6 hours would drag by were soon dispelled. There was plenty to keep us entertained. Greg Lemond and Chris Boardman wandering past, freebies from the sponsors, cheers for the different vehicles and people going past. At last the famed Publicity Caravan rolled through. This is a colourful parade of floats and decorated cars from the sponsors. To be fair most of them looked pretty tired by this point but they gamely waved and grimaced at our excited cheers!
|Not sure if the Skoda creature has a name - we cheered anyway.|
|Miffy! On a car! My favourite of the Caravan.|
|You can't quite see them - but the cyclists are coming!|
Then – the TV announced there was 10km to go – the whole atmosphere changed. The deckchairs had to go and it all got a little bit close and squished. The excitement was building, the riders were getting closer, the squishing got more....squishy. Cameras were out, no one could see what they were photographing but it was all very thrilling.... the riders rounded the last corner and into the straight for the chase to the line..... it couldn’t have been more squished or exhilarating... who would win? It was all so fast I didn’t even hear! Then they flashed past us, close enough to touch, 30 seconds and it was over!
Being where we were meant we got to see everything after that flash too. Marcel Kittel (the stage winner) walked back past, as did the other jersey winners. Vincenzo Nibali in yellow, Peter Sagan in green got huge cheers, not least for his Wolverine hair. We stayed to see the jersey presentations, cheered the winners and watched in amazement as the stage was literally dismantled while the cyclists were just leaving it.
|I was this close to Marcel Kittel :)|
|Vincenzo Nibali gets yellow|
|Peter Sagan in green. Hair hidden in cap!|
We gently headed back to the bus stop, while all around us the barriers and roadblocks came down and the capital returned to normal life. The excitement was over....... Maybe next time we'll go and do it again but in France.... now that WOULD be a road trip!
|And it's all over.....|