Monday dawned clear and warm but the forecast was for rain later so we headed down to the Tour de France route with our fingers crossed. Rain would mean the worry that people would put up umbrellas and obscure our view as the peloton zoomed past and also the fear of more crashes for the cyclists – one of our key riders, Mark Cavendish had already crashed out the day before.
We’d picked our spot, right on the Thames by Temple, halfway between the City and Westminster, where the tour would end, hoping the crowds would not be too full on. Success! We grabbed a spot on the pavement right in front of the course with a lovely view across the Thames to look at while we were waiting. Road races always involve a lot of waiting so good company, a good view and a good book are essential.
The Tour de France 2014 had started in Yorkshire 2 days before and they reckoned at least 2 million people lined the streets in towns, villages and throughout the countryside. A couple of hours ahead of its arrival London was quiet with miles of roads closed off but as the time approached the pavements filled up and the route was lined with spectators from all around the world. In Yorkshire it looked like the crowds were almost touching the riders so here in London we were asked, politely but several times, to keep off the road. Every runner or cyclist who happened to be using the route for exercising got a huge cheer, which seemed to be a problem for one runner who slunk off out of view – perhaps he was supposed to be at work…
We hoped they would keep to the cycle lane!
The long wait was broken up by an intermittent parade of vehicles from the huge team buses, various police cars and bikes and the loud and colourful sponsors’ floats. We loved the inclusion of wine, well it is a French tour, chips, well it is in England, a random bear and Miffys and Yorkshire tea, well it did start in Yorkshire. On a more solemn note, the 1st World War float was a quieter moment.
It may seem strange to have the Tour de France in England but they often have a section or stage as they call them, in another country and this is the 4th time it’s come across the Channel in its 101 year history. There is a lot of cycling vocabulary to get your head around but the main word to know is the peloton, which is the main group of cyclists riding together and this is what we were waiting for.
Then it was time! The crowds were huge by now and barely contained on the pavements. Then suddenly the riders were there, so many, so close together, going really fast, surrounded by motorbikes.
As soon as the last rider had past and the waving police escort disappeared out of view, it was as if they had never been there. People wandered up and down the road in search of new amusements or went back to work. By the time we had packed up our stuff, the riders would have reached the finish line and that was that – the Tour de France in London was over. Fingers crossed they come back soon!