My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tour de France... in London?

Inexplicably, the Tour de France started in London last weekend. I say "inexplicably" because it's the Tour de France, after all -- and last I checked, London has not been invaded. (Insert "cheese-eating surrender monkey" joke here.) Apparently the TdF starts 's outside of France from time to time -- this is the 16th time that's happened.

Anyway, I thought the thought of watching people cycle would be overwhelmingly lame, so wasn't going to go watch any of it, but Shannon talked me into it, and it was sunny last Saturday, so I went to go watch the time trials in Hyde Park.

Holy massive thighs Batman, it was hella cool.

The time trials are to decide the order of the race, which set off the next day, on Sunday. The 8km track ran from near Trafalgar Square through the park and then back again, so areas around that were all blocked from traffic. Cycling down the middle of Westminster Bridge, past Big Ben, I thought this was quite cool. But by the time I hit Hyde Park, the crowds were so thick I had to get off and push. Took me an hour to get from Waterloo to the spot where Shatrick waited north of the Serpentine. (There is an event planned for September where the city's going to close a bunch of roads to cars, which should be hella cool. As long as the pedestrians stay out of my way...)

Anyway, once I arrived and drank two canned G&Ts, I relaxed a bit, and started to really enjoy the race. They go bloody fast. I know that sounds like an obvious statement, but photographing them proved nearly impossible, and video wasn't much better. We were sitting in front of a giant tv screen, and according to the commentator dudes, the cadence of the cyclists -- how fast they pedal -- was a hundred times a minute. So they're moving their legs in that little circle more than once a second. I counted it out as they went by, and indeed they were moving that fast.

One dude hit a side barrier and wiped out. I jumped and instinctively covered my face with my hands when it happened. At least I wasn't going that fast when I bit the pavement.

The fastest time came in a few seconds under 9 minutes for the 8km track -- so roughly 54km/hr. On a bike. The winner was ridiculously faster than the rest of the racers, beating the second place dude by some 12 seconds (or something like that). The commentators commented that the escort motorbikes actually slowed him down on a few corners.

After all the racers finished, we hung out and waited for the crowds to thin before heading over to Kensington. I took the opportunity going there and heading back home to cycle down the track -- essentially just roadways around the park, lined with temporary fencing and banners. I wasn't the only cyclist out pretending to be Lance Armstrong, and despite going about as fast as my little commuter can go, was still being passed by show-offs in spandex on road bikes.

The next day, Emily -- despite multiple protestations against sport of any kind -- and I met up near Tower Bridge to see the racers do their warm up ride before the race's rolling start in Greenwich (ending for the day some 213 km away in Canterbury). There was a weird ceremony at the top of the bridge -- for the jersies? -- before all the cyclists rolled past us in about 20 seconds. It then took us 20 minutes to get off the bridge, because of all the crowds.

It surprised me a bit -- given the rather boring nature of watching cycling -- that so many people came out, but the crowds apparently were in the millions both days. Will it spur Londoners to take up cycling? One hopes not, as the roads are crowded enough as it is... As I shall explain in my next post... (don't let the suspense kill you.)

More photos here, more videos here and here, and here are some panos:

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Daorcey said...

Canned G&Ts?!

Sorry, you were mentioning something about biking...?


Blogger Nicole said...

yeah, they have such innovations in alcohol here. Shannon also introduced me to the wonders of canned wine...



Post a Comment

<< Home