The paddock

Ouch. That’s pretty much describes the first part of stage 4 for me. It turns out that Carlisle’s actually a good place for a night out and lax English drinking laws mean you can do things like have 2 for 1 on all drinks after 9pm. Way to go Walkabout!

Bleary eyed ¬†and after a good big fry up at the Travelodge we headed into town to hunt down some riders. After yesterday we’d pretty much given up on Team Sky so were concentrating on getting Samuel Sanchez, Yanto Barker and Jerome Coppel. Any others would be a bonus.

Curiously, the first autograph of the day wasn’t a rider, but ITV presenter and all round top bloke Ned Boulting:

Ned Boulting

Sorry for interrupting Mr Cameraman

We couldn’t track down Yanto Barker, but did manage to get Nigel Mansell at the Team UK Youth team bus. After getting some legends (John Herety and Malcolm Elliot) we hung out at the Saur Sojasun bus. Please will someone teach Hugh Porter how to say their name?

It turned out to be a great place to stand, as pretty much every team except Sky were moving around this area. The bikes were pretty nice too.

bikes

Saur Sojasun bikes

Dave Clarke was nice enough to hand the jersey around the Node4 Giordana bus for autographs and we managed to stop olympic champion Samuel Sanchez on his way to sign on. Sep Vanmarcke was a good catch too.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke, probably late for sign on

Eventually Jerome Coppel came out and we made our way towards sign on to try and get the Endura guys. When Johnny McEvoy said he had to go get some kit we didn’t really expect him to come back, so were delighted when he came and found us in the crowd to sign the jersey. Another top bloke. After directing him to sign on our last autograph of the trip was a good one – Jonathan Tiernan Locke, soon to become the first Brit to win the Tour of Britain in 23years.

The race

We went back to the car to watch the neutralised rollout, having a bit of banter with the motorcycle display team (Police outriders) while we waited.

Samuel Sanchez

You’d think Samu would have gold overshoes too!

After the rollout we headed onto the motorway towards Kendal, aiming for the top of the Old Hutton King of the Mountain climb. The weather was absolutely horrendous and I was feeling pretty bad for the riders. We passed the Euskaltel bus and I gave the driver a wee wave. He looked at me like I was an alien. As soon as we came off the motorway it was obvious why the route came here. The hills were epic. Steep, narrow, twisty… very British. Add in the torrential rain and wind and it was looking like an exciting day of racing.

The number of fans stood by the roadside getting drenched was incredible, we were there about 30mins before the race was due and we were pretty much the last car to get parked. I can only imagine how many more people would have been out if it was warm and sunny!

The motorcycle display team kept everyone entertained as the race approaced, some riders celebrating as they came over the line with their sirens on, some just waving. Seems like a pretty good job! Just before the commentary car’s microphone died we were told that there was a breakaway out front with a six minute advantage. Unsurprisingly it contained Kristian House!

Just before the riders arrived Larry Hickmott from VeloUK hopped off the motorbike to get some photos. I was absolutely drenched, god knows what it was like sitting on the back of a motorbike. Back at the Tour Doon Hame I also ended up stood next to Larry in the pouring rain, not sure which of us is bringing the back luck…

In his quest for the King of the Mountains jersey Kristian House led the break over the top of the climb for full points.

Kristian House chasing the cheese

I’m always astounded by the speed that pros climb at and this was no exception. I managed to take one blurry photo on my rubbish camera before they were all passed. This left us with a bit of a logistical challenge. We were parked pretty far down a very narrow lane with about 20 cars behind us. Instead of trying to turn and getting stuck in a queue we went on an adventure, going through puddles so big we thought the car might sink and I spent most of the next 15minutes worried that the car would get stuck on the grass verge running down the middle of the tarmac.

The weather didn’t clear up too much until we made it to Blackpool, by which time Sky and Endura had brought the race back together and it was obviously going to be a sprint finish at the foot of the tower. We had a great spot next to the team buses, looking up the finishing straight, until some tall guy stood right in front of us and as soon as the race approached he was up on his tiptoes holding a camera above his head so nobody behind him could see. It kind of defeated the purpose of going all the way to Blackpool!

blackpool tower

The finish for stage four

After seeing absolutely nothing of the race Callum went off to join the scrum at the Team Sky bus as I hung out next to GreenEDGE and Euskaltel. It was a bit of an eye opener to be around the riders so soon after they finished. I’ve never seen anyone look as tired as Leigh Howard did that afternoon. After losing the sprint to Mark Cavendish (and the leader’s Gold Jersey with it) he slumped over his bike in front of the bus and everyone took photos of his suffering. Including me.

Leigh Howard

The pain of a sprint finish

With no chance of getting stuff signed at the Sky bus we were soon back in the car and headed home. Callum had driven 85 miles to Blackpool for us not to see any of the race and not get any autographs. That was a wee bit disappointing!

The road trip was a massive success though, we got to mingle with some of the best riders in the world, discovered some great new places and got tonnes of autographs. I’d also acquired a spectacular hangover.

GS Metro jersey

A successful autograph hunt

Sitting at home watching the rest of the race on TV really gave a sense of what an incredible event this was. The crowds were unbelievable all over Britain, the racing was unpredictable and exciting and, most of all, Endura Racing’s Jon Tiernan Locke won the race. It was one of the key aims when the team was set up for the 2009 season and it was an honour to be at the race where they pulled it off. I also kept up my record of three Tour of Britain stages and three Mark Cavendish wins!

That was the last outdoor road race of the year for me, although I’ll be at a couple of the Scottish Cyclocross series events as winter sets in. I’m looking forward to the first ever indoor season in Scottish cycling at the Chris Hoy Velodrome, and hope to see some of you there!