Sunday, July 08, 2007

Le Tour de France - Stage One in Kent

Just arrived back from the "Garden of England", where I and around 1 million others between London and Canterbury saw the First Stage of the Tour De France.

My friends and I managed to fine a piece of grass by the roadside (at Hadlow, adjacent to Tonbridge on the A26) at around 11.15am. Within minutes the entourage
started to speed through. There were various French registered vehicles full of pretty girls lobbing pens, sweets and other items to the roadside spectators. Numerous members of the French "gendarmerie" and Kent Constabulary then sped past on their motorbikes causing anxiety amongst the local mothers whose recalcigent offspring were darting into the road then back again onto the grass verges. I think the lack of crowd control would have sent those who work in "Health and Safety" into apoplexy.

Every now and again one would hear "Hallo" and "Ca va" coming from a loudhailer perched on one of the cars. This seemed to confuse the hell out of the locals. I overheard one saying "can't they speak in English?". I didn't have the heart to explain to the elderly lady that the French never speak in English unless they want to sell you something. (or insult you)

Towards 1.00pm, a shout went up. "Look Dad there's a helicopter". Indeed there was. In fact three roared into view and then very shortly the leading pack of riders, numbering 5 or 6 came past in a flash - followed by the "peloton". Enormous cheers went up from the crowd. Union flags were waved and everyone seemed to love those fit young men bedecked in pink, pale and royal blue, red, green and yellow. I half expected a float from Margate carnival to appear it was so colourful. An eerie silence then ensued as the last of the riders went past followed by support vehicles and at the very back was a solitary ambulance crawling along.

Within minutes the crowds had dispersed and we walked back our car wondering when Kent would see such a spectacle again. A little later, the Australian Robbie McEwen( see photo) produced a stunning piece of riding to claim victory at the Stage One finish in Canterbury.

Stage Two will be from Dunkirk to Ghent.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Lovely, effervescent description of the event, JJ. The next stage should be Aix to Ghent!

Colin Campbell said...

Tonbridge is one of the few places that I have visited in Kent. I can remember it quite well. South Australia is bidding to run the Tour De South Australia as one of the few professional events in the Northern Winter. Currently we have the Tour Down Under, which gets some of the teams. That would be a big step up for South Australia. The British born Minister for Tourism was in the UK lobbying last week.

We have the Tour De France live every night from about 10pm on Free to Air Television. Pretty popular. One of my colleagues goes to France every year to watch.