Tuesday, 8 July 2014

July 5th 2014: Yorkshire: Tour de France

Monty the Motorhome wants to cry out “allez, allez” to cheer on the Tour de France riders as they pass by the Wharfedale site.

We decided just to view proceedings from the entrance to the site, which offers views up the road. This is the entrance to a number of other properties, apart from the Caravan Club site, as well as two fields of ‘pop-up’ camping. So plenty of other people joined us on this spot - we estimated there were approximately 1000 present.

About an hour before the 'caravan' comes through and our little spot is filling up fast. In reality it is just an elongated pull in off the road, so not all that big
The main road was closed to motor vehicles at 0600 hrs this morning, but it was filled with cyclists making their way up the valley. Again an estimate, but I reckoned there was one cyclist per second passing by. This for a period of about two hours, and there would have been many more prior to our arrival. Some of these cyclists would be looking for a vantage point to view the race, others would be taking advantage of the road closures to cycle the whole stage - Leeds to Harrogate - a distance of 190 km.

Preceding the riders was a cavalcade of promotional vehicles known as the caravan. Interspersed with these were police (British and French) and support vehicles for the various cycle teams. All came through at a fair rate of knots, sirens and horns going, and in some cases getting very close to spectators.

One of the promotional vehicles travelling at speed past us
Then all of a sudden three riders came through - a breakaway group - admittedly with outriders ahead of them. However they were through before we realised. Then there was a wait of several minutes before the main peleton swept past. There was no mistaking it’s approach as all outriders had sirens and horns going, plus several helicopters were following progress quite closely. We expected them to come by at speed and were not disappointed, however the thing that amazed us most was how close each rider was to one another. There are 198 riders in this stage and nearly every one of these was bunched into a peleton about 50m long.

Then it was over. 

So back to Monty, to listen to rest of the race on local radio. Our British hopes were dashed when Mark Cavandish crashed out within sight of the finishing line, and it looks likely he will be out for the rest of the Tour. However Chris Froome (aka va va Froome) was sixth and looked strong. He will be the one remaining British hope for the summer of 2014 after disappointments in almost every other sport
However the most astonishing thing was the number of people who turned out to watch. Every commentator is stunned.  Iconic images of crowds at all the major viewing spots will feature in news reviews for some time to come.

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