On Saturday I spent a fun and memorable day at the Tour of Britain. Wiggins, resplendent in his gold jersey, was so close he practically ran over my toes!
Following the pleasant 1 hour ride from Petworth, we watched the race tackle the category 1 Barhatch Lane climb, north of Cranleigh. It may not compete with the Cols of the Tour de France, but it is certainly a tough test of legs and lungs. To reach our intended vantage point we had to first tackle the climb ourselves. Between the high sided banks and over hanging trees it is quite dark and gloomy. There is no run in, the gradient just gradually increases as you drop down through the gears. Close to the top there is a false flat before the road ramps up evilly before the summit. The pro’s were over the top in around 7 minutes, I undoubtedly took a lot longer!
We’d met at the same point 12 months previously and the crowds were certainly larger this year. It was particularly good to see so many youngsters waving their flags, hopeful for freebies thrown from the team vehicles. The first riders to receive the wild encouragement of the massing ranks were the late arrivals! Churning away, they had no excuse for not making it to the top of the climb with 100’s of people roaring them on!
After thirty police motorbike out-riders had whizzed past (why do they need so many?), came a four man breakaway group. They passed unscathed through the throng, as people cheered and banged those deafening inflatable clappers. The noise levels reached a crescendo a few minutes later when the peleton rolled into sight. The big names like Wiggins seem unfazed, but some of the riders certainly looked startled by the size of the crowd. It's quite an experience from the roadside, so I have no idea how it must feel to actually be at the eye of the storm. As the bunch funnelled through the crowd it almost came to a halt, this gave the opportunity for one rider to impress the supporters with a wheelie! Right at the back was Nairo Quintana, 2nd at this years Tour de France. He actually wheel spun as he powered away. I’d been struggling to even turn the pedals at the same point on the climb!
Following the race came the convoy of team cars, with row upon row of priceless carbon superbikes adorning the roof racks. Then finally it was done and for a second the road was quiet. Slowly a 1000 amateur cyclists got back on their bikes and set off for Guildford, hoping for time to have coffee and cake before the Tour riders reappeared for the finish up the cobbled high street!