Today was the day that many many cyclists in the East of England – me included – have been waiting for all year… the day the Tour de France came to sunny Essex. I took the day off and spent the day near Roxwell just west of Essex and had a brilliant time.
In the days leading up to Monday I was undecided what to do logistically. I had decided to watch the tour near Roxwell but the question was how to get there. It seemed appropriate to cycle the 70 mile round trip to see the stage but I wanted to take cameras and stuff. I didn’t want to drive either. In the end I drove to Writtle with my bike in the boot and gear in a backpack and cycled the last couple of miles.
I was there early – at around 9am – but already there were a few keen souls setting up shop at the side of the road. I cycled up the Roxwell Road then right into the lane up to Roxwell. A quick recce confirmed the spot I planned to take was the best so it was on a nettle infested roadside bank that I set up camp.
Not long after I was joined by a couple of feisty ladies from Writtle. They passed by walking toward Roxwell then returned to sit on their folding stools to my left. Not long after I was joined by a chap to my right followed over the next few hours by more and more people on my bank including the chap on my right’s mate.
After a while one of those redoubtable ladies of Writtle enquired if I would take a photograph of them in-situ. The instructions were clear. Stand here. Road on the left. Ladies on the right. Do as you’re told. Photo was taken. Photo was retaken. Banter ensued. I had a feeling the day would continue in this vein.
For the next few hours we sat and soaked up the sun. Cyclists of all descriptions passed us by from club riders to local yoofs on bmxs to passengers in kiddiseats. We even got treated to the passing of a chap atop a penny farthing. Plenty of walkers too. The odd maniacal French vans passed by along with a scattering of motovelo mounted police and gendarmes.
Then came the incident of the horse dung. I was sat minding my business when I noted a football sized ball of dried horse dung rolling down the bank and onto the road where it stopped in the middle. Said dung had been dislodged by one of the redoubtable ladies of Writtle. Laughter ensued as I gallantly leaped into the road to retrieve said dung especially when I enquired if they wished it returned.
Calm returned and we sat and chatted for a while longer in the Essex sunshine. Pedestrians and cyclists increased in number as the morning progressed and our grassy bank began to fill. A gentleman on a penny farthing passed to much admiration and a the odd cheer. A parrot was spotted on a nearby telegraph wire.
Around noon – and some two hours before the cycles were due the Tour ‘caravan’ passed us by in a blaze of colour, noise and exhaust fumes. A weird and wonderful array of crazy sponsor’s vehicles sped past at 30mph+ disgorging the odd freebie and packet of sweets. I got none.
Another hour or so passed until a helicoptor was spotted in the distance. It slowly came closer and was joined by another half a dozen helicopters and the game was on. The TV helicopter started circling, video cameras were started and cameras poised and around the corner came the 2 man breakaway followed by a stream of team cars, race officials and motorcycles.
Not long after – barely a few minutes – the main field rounded the bend at speed although it was slower than I expected. This was probably as we were just past the feeding station so the riders were probably taking it easy after their lunch. Photos were taken (many of) and an even bigger stream of cars and bikes (and the odd straggling rider) passed by. And then it was all over. Bags were packed. Goodbyes were said, bikes were mounted and we left the scene. I returned to my car glad that I was on a bike as the traffic was already backing up and within the hour was at home watching the last 15 km. All in all an excellent day was had.
A selection of photos of the riders passing are included below. I have uploaded all the photos I took to my google+ photos site and links to these are also included below. I retain all copyright on these photos. If you would like copies for your personal use then email me at email@example.com (especially the guys and girls I spent the day with).
I’ve put the photos into two albums – the buildup including the caravan and the passing of the cyclists. I also took a video of the cyclists passing us and will upload that in due course so check back in a few days.