Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Le Tour de Yorkshire - er I mean France

Sunday 6th July 2014

Today we were up especially early, for us, and we were on the road at 7:30 am; firstly on the A518 to Uttoexeter; then the A50 to Derby; followed by the A38 to the M1 and finally off at Junction 33 and in towards Sheffield.

Just under 2 hours, which we were pleased with.

We moored at the Park'N'Ride and took the tram into the centre of Sheffield to have a bit of a look around and get our bearings and information. We did manage to find the cheapest of the tram fares ₤6.50 for a family ticket including the parking - cheaper than the ₤7.00 for 2 adults.

We must have been early getting there because the locals were still not out and about yet.

There were however plenty of people around handing out maps and able to supply plenty of information - after all they were expecting about 250,000 people to be passing through.

Why were we there?  For Stage 2 of le Tour de France.

We had been wanting to see the famous race for quite some time and with it starting in Yorkshire this year, there probably wouldn't be a better or easier time to get to it.

We  had hoped to be cruising into Sheffield this year but Holme Lock at Nottingham put paid to that, but the car for the weekend has been a good substitute.

On the tram ride into the city, Diane was quick to point out narrowboats moored up close in, so that would be something to check out as well.

Time for a coffee; a look through the market stalls; a bit of a sit down at the city fanzone, before we strolled down to Victoria Quay to check out all of the essentials.

How many moorings; facilities; waterpoints; toilets; showers and elsan - yep, all down; we will be fine for next year.

In doing all of this we didn't forget to have a good look at the architecture around the city centre - worth knowing what it is like before you visit for a bit longer.

Not being entirely sure about the crowd situation at various points we thought it wise to make our way out to the finishing area and see about a point on the course that might be easy to get to.

In the end we opted to stay just 200m down from the end; a place on the fence and not too many others around - we knew that would change - after all we had another 4 and 1/2 hours to go.
It started slow but there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere around as people chatted away and had fun at the expense of those going up and down the home straight.

Novelty sellers; police; officials all seemed to be out to enjoy the day as well.
The horn seller and customer

The two people (centre and right) are undercover cops, checking
that all vendors have licences

Along the way there were a great multitude of cars and other vehicles making their way along the track towards the finishing area.
The team cars; team buses; the caravan of sponsors vehicles; a group of young academy riders finishing their 30 km race. All these things designed to provide something for the ever increasing numbers of people starting to invade and line the barricades.

We met a couple next to us who were from Doncaster (23 miles away), who were so concerned about the length of the journey that they had decided to stay overnight rather than be too tired - heck, we would travel that far to a decent cake shop.

We also met a man with his daughter and son, also enjoying the atmosphere - he was finishing a course at Sheffield University after which he would have to head back to Libya.

Lovely people, all of them that we spoke to throughout the day.

Diane almost accosted the young police officer (special constable), assigned to the station near to us - a really nice guy and very friendly indeed - Craig was his name - in her own way, she eventually talked him into swapping hats for a photo shot.

The commentary over the public address system kept us reasonably informed about what was happening in the race - we were the wrong side of the giant screen televising the race.

We were fortunate that it was a fine day - sunny but not too hot; a bit of a cooling breeze and of course no rain.

The tension started to mount as we were told that the riders were 10km, then 8, then on the final climb and finally only 2km away.

Eagerly looking down the course, expecting them to appear, when suddenly they did.

We couldn't see them so clearly at first, but quickly we could make out a rider who we knew was Vincenzo Nibali, but could have been mistaken for a kingfisher - a fleeting flash of blue.

Hastily followed by a throng of other brightly coloured lycra-clad bodies on cycles - Diane didn't even have time to drool over the male torsos presented before her.

Almost as quickly as the riders came up the last rise to the line and there were a line of others continuing to pass by, it was all over really.

We bustled our way towards the presentation area, already heaving with like-minded people waiting and wanting to get shots of the group who had won on the day in the different classifications.

Finally we headed off to catch a tram back to collect the car and make our way home, but the numbers wanting to do the same put us in the mindset to go back to the fanzone where we were and just sit down for a while.

As it was, the bigscreen soon turned to the BBC coverage of the men's final at Wimbledon and we managed to see the final set with victory going to Djokovic - Diane was disappointed for Federer, but it was a good match as well.

Eventually we caught the tram, found the car, made our way out of Sheffield and stopped for something to eat.

By the time we arrived back on Ferndale, it had been a 14 hour day of travelling, standing, touristing, sitting and waiting for about 15 seconds of thrills with the final sprint to the line.

Was it worth it?  Yes, we now know more for the next time that we go !

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