This whole weekend has been a dream come true. For so many years off and on I’ve been imagining going to Le Tour… and now I’ve finally made it!
Wandering around Leeds on Friday evening, the pre-départ, I saw tons of banners and creative decorations welcoming Le Tour. Plus there were already barriers, direction signs, police vans and some ‘official’ Tour cars to get me really excited.
Stage 1 – Saturday 5th July – Leeds to Harrogate
Coming into Leeds on Saturday morning I was astounded by the massive numbers of people! I headed down to the Headrow, the official start and also where the riders were signing on… and almost got stuck there! The place was thronged and amazingly, more people were arriving. It did not suit me at all so I got another spot further away to see the Caravane (the sponsor’s promotional parade). I was so disappointed… It barely went on for 15 minutes and didn’t bring much excitement at all – not what I was expecting…
The team buses soon started arriving so I headed off to find Nicolas Roche. Nicolas is an Irish rider on the Tinkoff-Saxo team. He turned professional in 2004 and has won some stages in big races as well as the Irish National Championship. For this race, Nicolas’s bike is pretty special – a Specialized Tarmac S works partly designed by McLaren (read more here).
I waited outside the team bus for ages to see him. Finally he came out… I was there while Nicolas signed autographs and chatted to some journalists – I was so close to him!
I loved that there were so many Irish people at the Tinkoff bus to cheer him on. I also caught a glimpse of Alberto Contador, Tinkoff’s main contender for the win – I’m rooting for him!
There were so many people in Leeds I couldn’t make it back to the route to see the peloton off… but I watched the rest of the stage on a massive screen in the city centre with the sun blazing all afternoon. Yorkshire, you put on a good show!
Stage 2 – Sunday 6th July
Despite originally planning to be at the finish line in Sheffield, I changed my mind the day before and instead made my way to Jenkin Road, a relatively steep (category 4) climb ~5km from the finish line. This turned out to be a brilliant choice.
I got there before 12 and the race didn’t come through til after 4 so there was definitely some time to kill sitting on the side of the road! Some chatting to other spectators, sticking my Irish flag to the barriers, watching random cyclists tackle the route while the road was closed and another uninspiring appearance of the Tour Caravane and the race was in front of me before I knew it.
The first group containing the main contenders rushed by, I honestly don’t know who I saw in it! I did see a flash of luminous yellow so I think it was my faves – Alberto Contador and Nicolas Roche. I can’t believe how fast they went – uphill!
Out in the Yorkshire Dales the riders had been split into several groups so they all arrived at Jenkin Road at different times. I had a much better view of most of these riders (the non-climbers) and was even able to get pictures!
I highly recommend combining travel with a favourite hobby – in my case, cycling. I found parts of Yorkshire I never would have visited otherwise and being here for the excitement of a bike race like Le Tour was an unforgettable experience. I will be reliving these moments in my dreams for a long time to come!
PS: I’ve now impulsively booked a trip to Paris for the end of this month, coinciding with the final stage on 27th of July. Champs Élysées, here I come!!