“Unforgettable moments? There are many. But the one that stands out is the day Le Tour came to my little village, St Martin de Landelles-Plouay . As a young boy I dreamed of seeing the Tour for real on my streets, and on that day that dream became reality.”*
Daniel Mangeas, the voice of Le Tour has been calling the race home for 40 years. This year marked the end of the era; no longer will each race finish in dramatic style with his commentary booming out over the tannoy at the finish line.
There’s something about seeing the Tour on your own turf; whilst nothing can beat watching a stage in France for some, this year’s Grand Depart in Yorkshire ran them close. Incredible crowds gathered on Buttertubs, Blubberhouses and Jenkin Road to welcome a once-in-a-lifetime event.
I couldn’t make it to Yorkshire, but Essex was in striking distance, so three of us headed to a tiny village along the route, Rayne.
I’d never been there before so it was great to find they’d really gone to town to welcome the race; live music all day, local food and beers available and a great atmosphere. The publicity caravan was maybe not quite as good as the year I saw it in France, but they did have Nijntjes in honour of next year’s race which will start in Utrecht, hometown of the author behind the famous kid’s books.
The helicopters appeared about ten minutes out, and the best news from this spectator’s point of view was that two riders had made an early breakaway, a couple of minutes ahead of the main peleton. So often the whole bunch pass you by in less than 30 seconds, but this time we were still only an hour or so into the stage, and the riders were taking it at a slightly slower pace.
It was a great day out, and as the Tour is now over for another year, I find myself wondering if next year will finally be the year when I fulfill my dream of watching a mountain stage in the Pyrenees. Anyone want to lend me a campervan?
*ITV4 Tour de France highlights, 21 July 2014