Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Tour Of Britain

On Saturday 21st September I went to Guildford to watch Stage 7 of the Tour of Britain. The Go Surrey website had lots of very useful and detailed information that made planning the day easy. My wife got into watching the Tour de France and became a fan of Nairo Quintana, so she was up for coming along too, making it a whole family day out.

We wanted to see the finish on Guildford High Street, but also to see some action out on the roads, where we'd be able to watch without huge crowds. After checking the route it seemed that Newlands Corner would be a good place. Its only a couple of miles out of Guildford so is easily reachable by novice cyclists. The peleton were due to pass around 1.30pm and its a good place for a picnic. After passing the peleton would take a route North then West, crossing the finish around 3.30pm, leaving us plenty of time to have a picnic and get back and join the crowds in the High Street.

Deciding against the car as being too much hassle, we got the train to Guildford. It was starting to get busy as went up the High Street at about noon. We took a photo opportunity on the finish (lots of very friendly and helpful officials/marshalls around).

We carried on to Newland's Corner and saw the crowd was already building up. It seems like a popular place for bikers and there was a huge queue at the cafe. We started on the picnic but it wasn't long before police outriders started coming past, followed by various support vehicles. I expected a few but was surprised by how many there actually were; dozens of motorbikes, cars and vans. About 10 minutes after the first outriders, the 4 breakaway riders came past to great cheers! At last! It was great to see the riders that we'd been watching on the TV, and to cheer them on! Shortly after the peleton came past and Brad got a huge cheer as he went past (Quintana just behind him got a big cheer from my wife).

The crowds started dispersing and we finished out picnic and had a cup of tea. Heading back into Guildford it was extremely busy with huge crowds. We locked up our bikes a short distance from the high street and headed for the noise! There was a real festival atmosphere; the tannoy announcer was keeping everyone up to date with race progress, also shown on big screens. Everyone was anticipating the finish. We moved through the crowds on the high street (now 5 deep) to a place where we could stand on a step and look over - then came the announcement that the head of the race was minutes away! Craning our necks to see, we heard a roar of cheers, whistling and clapping coming! Then we saw the sprinters dash past at an impressive speed, then it was all over! Mark Cavendish had won!

We hung around, having tea and cake in a cafe, and looking round for some merchandise. My daughter was keen on getting one of the green Skoda flags, and I wanted a Tour jersey. On the way back to pick up the bikes we saw Mark coming out of the press zone (presumably he'd been doing interviews). He signed a few autographs and gave us a wave - I was 5 feet away from him!

All in all a really great day out. It was great to see the pros up close and the event was brilliantly organised. The info available ahead of time made it easy to plan and the officials on the day were really helpful. Now we're planning out trip to Yorkshire next year!

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