Road Cycling

Tour de France 2014: What Was It Like In London For Stage Three?

Our woman-on-the-ground watched all the action unfold on the Victoria Embankment. Did it live up to expectations?

Vive Le France! Photo: Nina Zietman

“We just love the Tour de France!” cried Sharon from Southend, showing me her yellow Tour t-shirt.

Sharon and her husband have followed all three stages of the Tour de France 2014 – from Leeds to Sheffield and now London. Here she was, proudly sporting her yellow gear in the busy Trafalgar Square.

“Everyone stood patiently waiting for the 60 second gap when the cyclists would fly by”

Sharon wasn’t the only one. All kinds of characters had turned up to watch the riders pass.

Middle-aged men wearing yellow hats and eating packets of crisps, their tight lycra cycling tops stretched over their beer bellies.

There were families with picnic chairs for their kids, settled in with comics and juice cartons. City workers who had escaped the office were swigging wine from plastic cups.

Everyone stood waiting patiently for the 60 second gap when the cyclists would fly by. Two women – Cathy and Darlene from Canada – had secured themselves a spot with camping chairs four hours early.

The parade was a little disappointing. Giant trucks shot past, advertising everything from Sheffield Hallam University to Haribo. French drivers yelled down megaphones, throwing freebies into the crowd.

It’s amazing how much people love free stuff. Even if it’s just a crappy neon yellow string bag.

A yellow van flew past with a bored-looking French girl half-heartedly shaking her boobs at the crowds to Sexy And I Know It.
“A bored-looking French girl half-heartedly shook her boobs to ‘Sexy And I Know It'”
An hour passed. Hopes were raised as a speeding police car drove by, before falling flat. They weren’t here yet.

Then my phone buzzed. “They’re coming through the Olympic Park!”

As everyone stared down the road with camera phones at the ready, the rain began to fall. It started as a drizzle until it was pouring in true British style.

There was no announcement. In fact, the streets were oddly quiet as the peloton crept around the corner at 4pm.

… and they’re here! German rider Marcus Kettel in the lead. Photo: Hannah Ustel

Cheers erupted as German Marcel Kittel sped past at nearly 50kph, followed by a clattering rabble of racers.

There were no barriers, so you were face-to-face with the action. It was a real adrenalin rush, even for those sat on the sidelines.
“Within 60 seconds, it was all over”

The rain pattered on our heads, but you could hear the excitement erupt down the road like a Mexican wave as the riders flowed down the street.

And then, within 60 seconds, it was all over. You could still feel the buzz in the air as the crowds begun to disperse.

Then a cry was heard behind – a couple of men were still riding! The final racer to come through got the loudest cheer. We Brits love an underdog.

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