Earlier in the year @biocazman and I planned a wee road trip to watch a couple of stages of the Tour of Britain, one in Scotland and one in northern England.
Jedburgh, not being the easiest of places to get to if you don’t drive, meant an early start for both of us, and it didn’t start well. Andy Murray had the audacity to keep me up until almost 3am and my alarm was already set for 4:30. My 5:15 taxi then failed to show up, which meant I had a pretty painful 2.5mile run to Partick train station to start the day. At the risk of going completely off topic, I noticed yesterday that the taxi company’s office is now a dog grooming salon!
After a good fried breakfast from a van at Hermiston Gait retail park we hit the road for Jedburgh. The sun was out, the scenery was spectacular and the roads fairly quiet. I’d never been to this part of the Borders before (that lack of driving again) so there was a real sense of adventure and anticipation. Arriving in Jedburgh we realised that we were a wee bit early. Only Team UK Youth had arrived at that point, and even then it was only the mechanics!
The autograph hunt
Once the teams started to arrive the excitement really kicked in. Although I’ve been to quite a few races I’ve never really hung about in the team area, but today Callum was looking for riders to autograph his GS Metro jersey. As expected, the UK Continental teams were easier to get a hold of and none of the World Tour teams really came out of their bus except to sign on, which was a bit disappointing. We did manage to catch Ivan Basso on his way to the start, and Christian Knees thought he’d escaped the scrum around the Team Sky bus only for Callum to catch him unawares. These two, long with country’s top domestic pro talent made it a pretty successful first day.
I’m an avid football and rugby fan and I just can’t imagine having the opportunity to go and hang out in any rugby or football team’s warm up area. Cycling rocks.
The “Summer of Cycling” has obviously been more than media hype and it’s absolutely fantastic to see so many people out on the streets to watch a race. There were huge cheers as Mark Cavendish and Brad Wiggins rode by, but there was an all round party atmosphere. I really hope some of these people will consider coming to more Premier Calendar and national level races on the back of this experience.
We jumped in the car and followed the race down to Hawick, where the riders turned off the main road and into a world of pain. With the limited phone signal there it was hard to keep track of what was happening, but three words kept appearing on Twitter: rain, wind, brutal. That’s what we like to see. After that it was a case of racing the race to Dumfries for the first arrival. Callum was a wee bit dubious when I told him to come off the main road and head down a B road towards Annan, but we beat all the team cars and buses by quite a margin. Take that Euskaltel driver (more on that later)!
Some of the showers on the way down were absolutely horrific. I’ve never been so relieved to be in a car rather than on a bike. We went for some lunch and then picked a good spot to watch the race come through Dumfries for the first time. I’ll be honest about the rationale behind this – we went to the most technical part of the course, where there was a high chance of “action”. Thankfully it all went without incident! I didn’t notice until later that Bernie Eisel had obviously been caught by surprise and had to ride around the chicane with a water bottle in his mouth!
Having found a pub that showed the race on tv we stayed nice and dry while Sky brought back the early break and Sep Vanmarcke put in a massive attack that almost lasted until we next saw them on the finishing straight. It was great attacking racing, but with Team Sky on the front it just never felt like a break would make it.
Sure enough, from our position on the last corner we could see Luke Rowe leading Mark Cavendish round the bend in first and second and you just knew there would be no stopping them. That’s two Tour of Britain stages for me – two Cav wins in Dumfries!
If the crowds in Jedburgh had been impressive this was on another level. We couldn’t get anywhere near the podium, and some people even resorted to climbing up lamp posts to see the presentations. Mental.
We went off to the team buses to try and get more autographs, specifically targeting Sky and Euskaltel. Sky were a no show (and soon proved to be the most antisocial team there) and we queued at the Euskaltel bus for ages only for the last autographs to go to two blokes from Stirling Bike Club who pushed in front of Callum. The bus driver decided enough was enough and shut the door on everyone and then almost run us all down. He wasn’t very popular.
After that it was a short jaunt down the road to Carlisle, where we were staying the night and stage 4 was leaving the next day. It was a great day out, but it’s amazing to think that we travelled so far and so long to see the race for about 3minutes.