Spectating a professional cycling race

I made my way into Bristol yesterday to watch the finale of Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain. When compared to other sports, watching a cycling event is quite a strange experience. You hang around on the side of the road not really knowing what’s going on in the race, eventually a procession of police motorbikes and press cars come through with sirens and horns blaring which excites the crowd and then finally the riders stream past with everyone clapping, cheering and seeing if they can recognise any of them. Which is generally difficult with their faces concealed beneath sunglasses and helmets. It’s a very fleeting experience which can feel like a bit of an anti-climax. Everyone mills about afterwards for a few minutes chatting about what they thought they’d seen and looking on their phones to find out what was actually happening. And that’s it. It’s finished.

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The race finally arrives

I had a good day out, meeting up with some friends and cycling 40 miles in total. It was also a beautiful, sunny day so hanging around on the side of a road for an hour wasn’t too much of a hardship. It’s also quite amusing to overhear the typically banal chat from other cycling fans discussing the intricacies of their equipment. Being a cyclist really brings out your inner nerd.

There’s definitely something unique about how close you can get to the race. It would be chaos if football fans could touch the players or shout in their faces while they were playing. And it was good to head over to the finish line afterwards and see the riders cooling down outside their team buses. Formula 1 fans pay thousands for that sort of access. Watching cycling is free.

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The Team Sky bus was pulling the biggest crowd

I got caught in a bit of rush hour traffic on the return home. For someone who lives in a little village and does most of his riding on quiet country lanes this is fortunately a rare experience. I was faced with a dilemma: sit behind a mile-long queue of cars breathing in their fumes, or ride up the middle of the road with the motorbikes and face a few shouted comments from white-van-men about riding on the wrong side of the road etc. Nobody likes sitting in traffic so I guess cyclists can provide a focus for some people’s frustration. But I’m not quite sure I understand why nobody minds a motorbike doing the same.

Saying goodbye to the city

Saying goodbye to the city

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8 thoughts on “Spectating a professional cycling race

  1. biking2work says:

    Great post & bring back memeories of July. Watching stage 3 of the TdF this year I was fortunate to cycle there and back along quiet roads. I went with a group but they went back the way that we came (boring) so I followed the long since departed peleton to Finchingfield. There was a real carnival atmosphere & I got a beer and hotdog, sat on the grass and watched some of the race on the big screen. No traffic problems there although I get what you mean about coasting down the middle of the road to avoid a tailback. I guess their frustration originates from their inability to do the same. My mantra is that they might actually like it if they tried to commute/cycle instead so they can go & get f*#ked if they have a problem with me doing it.

  2. biking2work says:

    Great post & brings back memories of July. Watching stage 3 of the TdF this year I was fortunate to cycle there and back along quiet roads. I went with a group but they went back the way that we came (boring) so I followed the long since departed peleton to Finchingfield. There was a real carnival atmosphere & I got a beer and hotdog, sat on the grass and watched some of the race on the big screen. No traffic problems there although I get what you mean about coasting down the middle of the road to avoid a tailback. I guess their frustration originates from their inability to do the same. My mantra is that they might actually like it if they tried to commute/cycle instead so they can go & get f*#ked if they have a problem with me doing it.

  3. fossilcyclist says:

    Had a better, in some ways, experience at the 100th Tour as the tour came past twice through Alpes d’Huez, first time I was in the village & next further up on the hotel balcony, with the TV on explaining the action as they arrived. Totally nuts & mobbed though. I’ll do a blog about it as it was all a bit bizarre.

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