The Tour of Britain, the British equivalent of the Tour de France, was destined to finish in Guildford today.
There had been plenty of warning that the roads around our area, through which the entourage were planning to circuit twice, were to be closed for most of the day and it was interesting to see that the old bridge at the bottom of Guildford High Street, less than 200 yards from our house, was open once more to traffic, having been pedestrianized some time ago.
We had all been out on our bikes yesterday, but this morning I wanted to get a bit of a run in; although I’m not running to a schedule yet, I am still trying to ramp my distance back up to an acceptable level for training for the next few months before the MdS. So early this morning I popped out to see what was happening along the North Downs.
The first part of the run was a well trodden path up Pewley Hill, along the backbone of the North Downs and I saw many other individuals walking dogs, etc, at the time I was around. Things were pretty normal up to Newlands Corner, which is a gradual uphill, although nothing to be concerned about. At Newlands I barely stopped, but it was clear that their was a Lotus owners group meeting, as the car park was laden with Exiges, Elans, Elises, Eclats and Esprits, which were accompanying the normal gathering of motorbikes which always congregate on a Sunday morning. I tried not to drool as I ran past.
As I crossed over the road the Sun was trying to break through, but the cloud were winning, by-and-large. Nevertheless, the unfamiliar rays of light breaking through the canopy of the forest, I suddenly realised I had rarely run this way to Coombe Lane, normally taking in the extra hills down to the Dorking Road towards Shere and then back up the testing Coombe Bottom.
The sunlight was short lived. By the time I had reached the top of Coombe Lane, it was overcast again and emerging from the undergrowth at West Hangar car park, I darted quickly across Staple Lane. Given the TOB cyclists were to be coming up this road in an hour or so, I was slightly disappointed there was not another human in sight – I was expecting at least 20 sponsor vans at each easily reachable vantage point.
I ran on through Netley Woods for a couple of miles, passing more walkers and a couple of horses and, at one point, I startled 3 young roe deer who were crossing the path just before me 🙂 great to see. At between 10-11km I turned round and made my way back, changing route only after I got to Newlands and heading north west to the town rather than the more direct route home. Big mistake!
When I got into the town of course they were pretty much ready for the cyclists, and so I was forbidden to run down the road – even though they were a couple of hours away! I reluctantly jumped over the fence and ran a little way down the pedestrian infested pavement, until I was stopped a second time and it was explained that there was only access to the shops!
Cyclists, eh! I wonder if in a few years time the whole of Guildford will be brought to a standstill and a further dichotomy introduced as a result of a UltraMarathon? That would be the day! 🙂
Eventually I found my way home after a bit of a detour and freshened up before a quick bite and then we were all off again.
Neither Liz, the children or myself really knew what to expect, and we hadn’t investigated much, although we knew that Bradley Wiggins who had won the Tour de France and the Olympic Road Time Trial earlier in the year, had retired on Friday due to illness. Mark Cavendish was still in though and had already won a couple of stages, but this time none of the Sky team members were in contention for the overall win.
We all followed the crowds and soon found there was little point in trying to get any further. We stopped very close to the point at which we had stopped when the Olympic torch had come through Guildford, at the bottom of the High Street on the bridge over the river Wey, and just like before there were hoards of volunteers waiting for the signal to pounce into the road with barricades at the appropriate moment.
We spotted John and Steph, some of our neighbours from The Court and chatted with them as we waited. The children managed to squeeze in place to get a good view on the sloping sides of the partitions separating the empty road from the deep throngs of spectators and we all waited expectantly.
Then they started coming.
The police motorbikes, the occasional official course vehicle and of course the odd sponsor car as well. Mostly police motorbikes though. They seemed to be having great fun whizzing along the empty route, encouraging people for the anticipated cyclists who were following. The boys counted at least 24 in all, some of which were going quite sedately and others which almost came to grief on the hump of the block brick bridge, with which they were no doubt unfamiliar 😯
Eventually the cheers of the crowds from round the corner gave us an indication that the breakaway group of cyclists were on their way through and boy were they going fast! You could tell the police motorbike riders had to ride so quickly just to keep ahead of the cyclists – sportsmen at the top of their game. I missed the leading group of 4 or 5 riders as Savannah, who up until that point had been on my shoulders, was insistent about getting down at the exact instant they came past!
2½ minutes or so later they were followed by the main peloton, again speeding round the corner after cruising the hill down the Portsmouth road from Godalming, before turning up the High Street, over the Bridge, passing where we were and then powering up the cobblestones and then departing on a 2 hour loop of the surrounding countryside.
It was all over in a flash, with the sportsmen quickly replaced by the many service and team cars with spare bikes ready for any eventuality. Cycling isn’t a poor man’s sport!
We went home, but returned again ready for the finish after a couple of hours, standing a bit further back to get a better view up the High street this time.
As we suspected, the peloton had reeled in the leading bunch and Mark Cavendish was leading the Peloton at the final corner with only the final hill to climb – no problem for the Manx man and he went on to finish the stage with another win – his third of the Tour.
The series was eventually won by another Brit, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, who after being in the front position after the penultimate day, managed to stay out of trouble and finish with the main pack to take the overall win – the first British cyclist to do so on the TOB for 19 years – What a great year for British cycling!