diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 08, 2007

Le Tour de France - Londres
The Prologue

waiting for Le TourIt's been a long time coming, but the world's greatest cycling event finally swept into London yesterday. 189 lycra-clad blokes, most of them French, pedalled their hearts out on a five mile circuit round the centre of town. Half a million people came to watch them speed by. And, what do you know, even the sun finally came out.

I avoided the start down Whitehall and the finish up the Mall, and headed instead to the open green spaces of Hyde Park. Here I had a look round the People's Village - an enclave of cycle-related exhibits coupled with un bon marché français. This was the perfect spot to learn about sustainable transport policy, or to have a go on an under-16s obstacle course, or to buy some garlic sausages. I wasn't quite tempted to convert to two-wheeledness myself (I'd rather keep my body in shape by not falling under the wheels of a lorry, thanks) but the focus was appropriately positive throughout. The 2012 Olympic bus was in attendance, with that much-loved logo on its side, overseeing some have-a-go sporting sessions. And the must-have freebie du jour was the Orange Broadband periscope, which just everybody was queueing for, but only one of which I actually saw being used.

sponsored French water bottleWherever the Tour goes, the Caravan precedes it. This is a long procession of the Tour's sponsors, out to make an impression before the main event begins. Furry lions parade past, grinning girls hurl promotional goodies out of the windows of their converted cabs, and giant washing powder packets wheel by. Most surreal of all yesterday, however, was that all the sponsors were French. There was no nod whatsoever to the native British audience who were instead treated to publicity from bottled water brands they can't buy, and supermarkets they can't shop at, and police forces they'd never want to be recruited into. But that didn't stop the spectators from trying to grab every plastic freebie thrown their way. Skoda sunhats, Haribo sweeties, cheap plastic wristbands, even pointless shiny silver discs - all were grappled for with a vengeance. I failed miserably to collect a single item, beaten even to the shrink-wrapped cardboard fan in the shape of a pizza slice that fell at my feet. Ah well, the child who wrestled it from me looked suitably delighted.

Before the official start the riders made practice laps of the track, just to check where all the bends were and how best to take them. This was good, because otherwise there'd have been nothing to see for nearly an hour and a half, apart from the backs of the heads of the people standing in front of you. I'd taken up position by the Serpentine, inside the western loop of the cycle circuit, where by 2pm there was little chance of escape over a woefully inadequate pair of pedestrian footbridges. Nearby spectators rang their friends attempting rendezvous, only to discover that it might be hours before they could all meet up at the same location.

un vélo rapidAnd then the first rider appeared. You could tell he was on his way by the ripple of applause spreading across the park from West Carriage Drive, and by the gendarme outrider on his official French police motorbike. Whoosh! That was a man in head-to-toe lycra, beneath a plastic teardrop helmet, pedalling like the clappers on his vélo rapide. Behind the anonymous cyclist came his team car with a pair of bikes on the roof (presumably as spares, in case of mishap, although that seemed rather pointless on a circuit lasting less than ten minutes). And then a final police outrider. And then a minute's gap. And repeat 188 times.

Some might call the Prologue repetitive and boring, especially for the spectators. The atmosphere was great, but we had no idea who was passing and no idea who was winning, neither did most of us care to be honest. We were there for the 'event'. Our role was just to watch, and to applaud, and to make up the numbers along the circuit. The endless stream of passing cyclists gave all the photographers in the crowd the opportunity to repeatedly practice their camera technique ("damn missed him, but never mind there'll be another one along in a minute"). But for some the excitement paled as the novelty value wore off, and the less stalwart spectators drifted away well before the three hours was up. It'll be more exciting at the Grand Depart this morning, along the first stage of the race proper. Oh you lucky people of Greenwich, Bexley and Kent, you have it all to come. Just don't blink as the peloton charges through, because you've only got the one chance for a decent photo.

onionbagblogger has "proper" Tour reportage, with proper photos
The Greenwich Phantom watched the start of Stage 1, in Greenwich

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream