Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Finishing Line

In my 30s I wrote out a 'bucket list' of things I would like to achieve during my life. Looking back now at 65, I have achieved most of what I hoped to do back then. In my retirement, I still think occasionally, "I would like to see, or do, that." The other day, looking ahead to this week's Tour of Britain cycling, I thought to myself, "I would love to be there in person when Mark Cavendish won a stage." I've watched a lot of cycling this summer... but on the box. What would it be like to be at the finishing line live to see Cav in full flow?

With Stage 3 of the Tour of Britain finishing at Dumfries today, I set out to support the event and experience some of the sights and sounds at the end of the stage. That's the actual finishing line - really it is - above!

There were blue skies at the Whitesands in Dumfries this morning, with the river in full flow.

Last year I watched the Tour as it came through Newton Wamphray, see here. This time I watched the cyclists pass 'my corner' thanks to the big screen set up on the Whitesands. At least the weather on the Scottish stage was rather better this year than last.

There was opportunity on the Whitesands to see more of what goes on behind the scenes of such a big event. Here the team buses get marshalled into their parking area having come from the start in Jedburgh.

Then it was a case of finding a place at the barriers on the finishing line. The cyclists would pass through Whitesands before doing a further loop and returning for what was likely to be a sprint finish. Would the Manx Missile be first across? Read on.

What I found interesting last year was all the police and marshalls on motorbikes at the head of the race to ensure safe passage. This year was just the same. It's an aspect of cycle road racing which does not come across on the television.

Despite the importance of the job, it was good to see the police entering the spirit of the event, 'high-fiving'  many of the schoolkids lined up along the barriers! Not something you see every day!

On the first pass through Whitesands, there was still a breakaway out front.

But here's Cav in the rainbow jersey, surrounded by his Sky teammates. If I have identified correctly that's Bernhard Eisel in front and Christian Knees behind him.

 And here's my cycling hero, Bradley Wiggins. Out of the saddle, too!

More of the peleton.

You will notice that the blue skies have disappeared. Indeed there were a couple of heavy showers, which did little to dampen the atmosphere in Dumfries, but made it interesting for the riders out on the course. The announcer worked hard to keep up the enthusiasm for a couple of hours as the crowds built up on the Whitesands.

I watched the last 20 kilometres or so on the big screen with my camera stowed away in my bag. The big screen showed the leaders swinging on to the Whitesands with Sky's Luke Rowe (now there's someone to keep an eye on for the future) leading Cavendish out. Textbook stuff and so well executed by the Sky team today.

I looked up, he flashed by. Did Cav win? Of course. I may not actually have seen it - I think I blinked -  but... I WAS THERE! Another magical sporting moment for me in a year when I have watched so much great sport.

Here's the winner, Mark Cavendish, on the podium. See some pro shots of the presentation here.

When you've got to go, you've got to go! The required business of any winner in any elite sport these days.

Back home and it was time to watch the hour's worth of highlights on ITV4. Great scenery. Some interesting pronunciations. I will have to call the Grey Mare's Tail, the 'Grey Marr's Tale', in the future, though it is hard to fault Hugh Porter's enthusiastic commentary on the race! 

As last year, the delights of Wamphray did not feature in the highlights programme (shame!), but the spectacular last kilometres of the sprint finish into Dumfries came over well in the televised coverage, thanks particularly to the helicopter!

I made the compulsory purchase of a Tour mug from the concession tent, and I look forward to using it and watching the rest of the Tour of Britain from the comfort of my living room in the days ahead!

Photos © Skip Cottage

No comments:

Post a Comment