Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Tour De France in Essex

Yesterday, the world's biggest sporting event (live audience measured in Millions... there's nothing else that comes close) travelled through Cambridgeshire, Essex and into London through the rolling countryside that the Tour organisers call "flat" but actually sap strength with lots of short, punchy little climbs that tempt you into going anaerobic to keep your speed up and which eventually cause you to 'bonk', especially if you forget, as I did, to eat.

I set off from home just before 8, arriving in Finchingfield at about 11.15, just as the tour procession was about to go through, scattering bits of merchandising. I reckon there were 20,000 people in Finchingfield alone. Apparently Saffron Walden was packed to the rafters and the roads were lined with people. Everyone who owed a bike within 20 miles of the course had cycled to the route, and many thousands more had driven, the lanes were lined with cars for miles around. All I wanted was a coke, because I'd ridden 42 miles, I had an empty water bottle and no food, and needed some sugar. My bike and I got separated as the procession came through, and I watched helplessly as the floats squeezed past it. Thankfully, despite it being on the course, leant up against the railings, it wasn't confiscated or crushed by a frenchman driving a float cart. I recovered it, and set about finding somewhere to watch the race, Jersey pockets bulging with haribo and coca cola.

I very kind Farmer had put a trailer next to the route, and when I asked whether I could join them on it, I was asked whether I wanted a beer. Talk about landing on one's feet! A hot dog was subsequently thrust into my grateful hands and the only payment was to pass on my far-from-exhaustive knowledge of cycle-racing.

You can see my trusty steed, and the gang with whom I watched the race.

What's remarkable is the length of the procession, there are cars and motorbikes passing through for a good hour before the first cyclists arrive, in this instance Jan Barta for NetApp Endura (in blue) and Jean-Marc Bideau of the Bretangne team (in white), who were around 4 minutes ahead of the peloton at this stage.

 Once they were through, there were a couple of service cars behind them, then another wait for the Peloton. Blink and you miss them. Then there's the convoy of team vehicles, service vehicles and so forth, and a few groups of cyclists who're drafting them to get back into the peloton following a comfort break.

Once they're gone, it's time to pack up and head home, after a stop in a pub to have a bite to eat and a few beers, and watch the rest of the race. I'd like to thank Miles and Stuart a couple of Enfield CC lads who then took it upon themselves to drag me me to Bruntingfield (halfway home for me, the location of their car) far, far quicker than I could have done it myself. It's odd, pace-lining (OK, wheelsucking) on a fully-dressed touring bike. I descended quickly, but struggled as soon as the hill went uppy. I'd like to blame the weight, but also being a fat knacker didn't help! 



Once they'd departed, I faced a long, lonely 20 miles or so in the rain, completely forgetting to eat, I started bonking with about 10 miles to go. I arrived home at around 7 o'clock. I sat in the bath eating a sausage roll and haribo. All in all a great day in the saddle, and amazing atmosphere around the course. If the Tour comes back to the UK, and I am sure it will, I highly recommend going to see it.




4 comments:

Simon Fawthrop said...

Alcohol and exercise are not a good combination, whther or not you eat.

but well done anyway.

Anonymous said...

not going to lie, get v tired of some of the aggressive cyclists on the road (and yes, I know they aint the only ones), but I am glad you had a good day and the sharing of the farmer's trailer, v cool :-)

btw why do non professional cyclists shave their legs? I get that a few microseconds might matter in the heady heights of the profs, but for anyone else it just seems a bit...

lost_nurse said...

"Côte de Blubberhouses"

It's been a glorious start. Fantastic.

Anon: it also helps with the dreaded road rash... not that I ever do it.

Anonymous said...

Another view:
Closed For The Day

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