Tour Of Britain Stage 6 - London

 by Martin Belam, 4 September 2005

This afternoon I headed in to town to watch the sixth and final stage of this year's Tour Of Britain race. It isn't, to be honest, a massive event in the cycling calender, since it clashes with the more prestigious Vuelta a España, but top teams like CSC and T-Mobile still had a presence today.

The stage was a circular route running along Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square, before turning towards the Thames, hanging a right along the Embankment, and then turning right again at Westminster Bridge back towards the finish.

I watched the opening laps of the race, which lasted around an hour and a half in total, from a vantage point on Hungerford Bridge, which gave me a good view of the approach to the very tight corner.

After a few laps I started to have a wander around the course, pressing up to the rails each time the peloton rushed past. It's amazing, the noise of the bikes, the clunk of gear changes, and above that you can even hear the riders talking amongst themselves.

The actual race itself wasn't much to write home about - because the course was so small nobody could ever really get a breakaway going, and if they did get away they were nearly always in full view of the group, making it easy to pace up and close them down.

However, it was just the right size for the event, so that it was busy without being crowded, and everybody could get a good vantage point. The pubs adjoining the course were still open for business, which added to my pleasure. It also meant I made another call on The Sherlock Holmes, yet again as part of some organised event and not through any choice of my own. Still, there's nothing quite like standing around in the sun supping beer watching other people do all the hard physical work :-)

Pictures from the Tour of Britain    Pictures from the Tour of Britain

Pictures from the Tour of Britain    Pictures from the Tour of Britain

For the last ten laps of the race I made my way to the start/finish line, and managed to get a spot directly opposite it. It meant I didn't get much of a perspective of how the final sprint unfolded, but I did get the impression of how fast the bikes are when in full flow and viewed side-on. If you want to try and catch a shot of me on TV you'll have to wait until September 11th when I understand the BBC will be showing a highlights package as part of Grandstand.

It was sponsored by Transport For London, and they were giving away cycling bags and wrist accesories. They were also providing free water for the crowd, which given the weather conditions was a great idea. My only gripe with the organisation would be that the race PA was only being broadcast in the vicinity of the start and finish lines. With no live TV or radio coverage people on the furthest reaches of the course had no way of knowing how the race was unfolding, or even how many laps to go there were.

It didn't please everyone though - one disgruntled six or seven year old girl strode past me on Hungerford Bridge exclaiming in disgust to her dad: "Is that the course? It just looks like a road to me".

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