Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tour of Britain - Stage 7 - Glasgow to Drumlanrig Castle

Hilary and I decided to go and watch the Tour of Britain cycle race live today, having been following it on television on ITV4. This stage included a category 1 climb (as hard as they get in this race) over the Mennock Pass to the village of Wanlockhead (highest village in Britain, and if anyone says - and many seem to - that that honour belongs to Flash in Staffordshire, all I'll say is "Flash 463m, Wanlockhead 467m" which seems easy enough to understand, surely?) We figured that at or near the summit would be a good place to see the riders, who would otherwise sweep by at enormous speed. We therefore stationed ourselves just below the highest point, which turned out not to be the official summit: from where we were the road drops down to Wanlockhead and then climbs to a lower summit which is where the banners and white line were placed. Not that it mattered: the riders were going slowly enough for a good view anyway. We were in position about an hour ahead of their scheduled arrival, which was interesting. We were given free promotional rain hats by E-On (race sponsors): quite handy as it was in fact raining gently. It seems that just about every cycling club in the area had turned out to cycle the route in front of the professionals, so we had a constant trickle of serious looking riders passing us. However, there was no mistaking the real thing, preceded as it was by almost 100 motorcycles, of which about half were police traffic control and the rest were race organisers, medics etc. There were also a few official cars before a loudspeaker car from the ITV4 TV channel stopped near us and told us that there was an eight-man breakaway including riders from seven teams (but nobody in contention for the overall "yellow jersey" general classification lead). They had a lead of 7'13" over the main field (the "peloton" in cyclespeak). Then the loudspeaker car went, the motorbikes passed, and then we knew something was about to happen because a TV helicopter appeared. That surprised us as we'd thought the cloud was too low, but it came in under it. And then the riders, as promised, eight in all: Danilo di Luca, "Fast Freddie" Rodriguez, Cameron Meyer, Julian Dean, Darryl Impey, Matthew Goss, Greg Henderson and Edvald Boassen Hagen. Because none of them was a threat to the overall race lead, the main body of the racers felt no need to reel them back in, so they had already maintained their breakaway for around 5 km when we saw them, and kept it up to the end of the race. Then there was a gap, filled by the lonely figure of Steve Cummings who was trying to gain a lead over the main field (unsuccessfully as it turned out). Then came the peloton, not seven minutes later but just over three: at this point they were catching up quickly, though they dropped back again later. The peloton was split in two, with the pure sprinter types at the back concentrating on not dropping out. (A case in point: the eventual tail-end Charlie was team GB's olympic sprint medallist Bradley Wiggins, though as they passed us it was someone from the Plowman Craven team.)

And then they were gone, and we walked back down to Wanlockhead and had a look round the museum of lead mining (which is excellent, BTW). A grand day out.

Oh, the result? Boassen Hagen won the sprint for the finish line to get a third stage win. Geoffoy Lequatre kept the yellow jersey, and Britain's Ben Swift lost his lead in the King of the Mountains competition to Danilo di Luca.

Official race report here.

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