Tour de France: Stage 1
Journal Part 2
Nearly ten minutes behind schedule, I arrive in
Rochester. I’m told that Millar is in a breakaway group, with some chasers
closing him down quickly. I run to take my position just after Rochester Castle
11.51 Nearly ten minutes behind schedule, I arrive in Rochester.
I’m told that Millar is in a breakaway group, with some chasers closing him down
quickly. I run to take my position just after Rochester Castle - which is a good kilometre away from the station. With the hot weather and the crowds assembled
on the road, this isn’t the most fun I’ve had. One slight change to route has
taken place, cutting around 400 metres out of the course, which is encouraging,
as the originally intended route would have seen the pack climb up a narrow
stretch of road that contained two ninety-degree bends.
11.54 I find my spot, which is nowhere near a barrier so I can
get a great view of the riders. Being the geek I am, I consider the road
surface, the line out of the preceding corner and the wind. Yes, all this just
to see the riders fly past me.
12.07 The ‘teenager-with-attitude’ on the side of the road next
to me (one of the volunteers helping out with the race) is on his phone. I’m
glad he’s not getting paid, and no doubt he doesn’t appreciate cyclists whilst
he’s driving fast with his boom boom music on in his car.
12.11 Millar, now joined by his chasers, pass through. The
crowds are enthusiastic, many chanting the Brit’s name – clearly they knew he
was in a breakaway. ‘Was that it?’ asks a middle-aged woman. She’s only here for
the social, I tell myself.
The break with David Millar passes. Photos © Nick Bull
12.16 The peloton reach Rochester, naturally taking a longer
time to pass through than the earlier breakaway. CSC look very strong,
protecting the Maillot Jaune of Cancellara. Vino is off the back slightly, I
assume at the time that he’s just had a puncture; it turns out he changed his
wheel just metres up the road. Picture chance missed!
The peloton reaches Rochester CSC and Cancellara, Vinokourov
The peloton Photos © Nick Bull
Almost by surprise, I receive a call from a friend – he’s just
seen the race pass through Rochester, and wanted to come to the finish in
Canterbury. I obliged, and to say I was pleased would be an understatement. (He
needs to be educated, as he only knows Armstrong and Ullrich). We get to the
Train Station with a few minutes to spare; the platform is full of race fans,
though many seem to get off at our earlier stops.
Canterbury is half-a-dozen stops down the line, so again my time
on public transport is minimized. Leaving the train at Canterbury East station,
it is clear to see that many people have come to watch the race. My father calls
again; he’s been talking to local Police, who estimate that there are 7,000
people already at the finish line - this was around 13.15, two hours before the
peloton are expected.
Undeterred, we head along Rheims Way, trying to find our vantage
point for the finish. Again, the crowd can get 20 metres from the line, and no
closer. Unsurprisingly, this is already four people deep, so we head back on
ourselves, and find a great spot around 40 metres from the line, where we are
second from the barriers.
The caravan is running behind schedule, so I get to see that
again. Hardly any souvenirs are given out again, so I can only assume that they
end their work each day around the 500 meter mark. The aforementioned Aquarel
vehicle has a mini-water fight with spectators along the roadside. Only in Kent,
I say. Only in Kent.
The atmosphere is building, as Millar is still in the lead
group, and Cavendish is seen towards the front of the peloton. As the
expectation gradually rises, David is left behind as his break companions
attack, and the T-Mobile rider has a fall at the bottom of the final climb.
McEwen has also come down, Quick Step are driving the peloton, so a Boonen
victory looks likely.
15.22 Cavendish looks close to tears, as he requires a bike
change. I mutter one of my finer French words under my breath, as it is clear
that his day is over.
15.29 Lotto are pulling hard to get McEwen back to the main
pack, but the speed up front is quick and thirty seconds is a sizeable gap at
this stage of the, um... stage.
15.38 Milram lead the pack as they enter the final two
kilometres. There is a narrowing of the road and a short kick over the River
just a few hundred metres from the line, which the pack roll over with ease.
No-one has come down either, which is a relief as this finish, whilst not dead
straight, is scarily quick.
15.39 The pack pass me; McEwen has come from nowhere and is
leading out the sprint. Boonen is there, but cannot match the Australian’s
speed. Hushovd is coming back to the Australian, but again was too slow in
responding. Robbie makes it look easy, crowning what has to be one of his finest
15.42 Mark Cavendish comes in to rapturous applause. He looks
gutted and beaten. His chance will come, though ultimately he’ll have to wait
until le Tour 2008.
With access to the podium minimal, we leave our spot after the
Bus comes in for the day. The crowds are lively and have clearly enjoyed their
day in the sun. We hear that Millar has climbed (sorry) into the King of the
Mountains jersey, as well as claiming a top five position for the time being. My
friend asks me if Millar will win in Paris; at first he struggles to understand
my answer. I make up some lame analogy based on soccer. He now comprehends.
The peloton finishes stage 1.
We find a bar to sit down in, positioned just slightly off the
route. The crowds have dispersed, the road is eerily quiet, but what it has just
witnessed will be remembered forever. My hectic weekend is all-but over, which
is one of the most bittersweet feelings I can remember.
Monday, 8th July 2007
16.42 On my ride towards Burham, which takes in the Tour route,
I get Goosebumps as I see the road graffiti that people wrote yesterday. Millar
and Wiggins are mentioned frequently, and I also suspect that there was a
Hincapie fan out on the roadside. I raise a smile, then ask myself how the race
passed over these roads so quickly.
20.27 I receive a message on my phone: ‘We must do Paris one
day’, it says. I write back saying ‘Nope. The Alps’.
I’m already saving to do just that.
France: Pre Tour Anticipation
France: London Prologue Journal
"Hard Men and
Heroes" Photo Exhibition in London
France: T-Mobile Pre Tour Press Conference
possible riches again for Discovery