We cheated and drove up to the area of the 2nd King of the mountains hill and then rode in by bike. Got to the Village of Goudhurst and had a choice of spaces to stand at. By luck-I stood next to this Big Fella- Ray- And he was from my home town and was on my first Big ride way back in 92. We keep meeting up in various places and he reminded me that he was one of the group that rode out to the TDF in 94 when it last came to the UK. Still 5 hours before the Riders were to come through so I decided to walk around abit to see where the food and drinks were. Once again found some local people to me- only from about 10 miles from where I live and as they were about our age group- Took a pic of them. One of these frequently takes a bike over to the US and takes a trip across country. Trying to get the picture and I realised that I should not step back- I was on the edge of a Pond and was just about to cool off very quickly. On the way back up I saw this Omega Bike and I had to take a pic of it. Old school bike from a British builder and the rider had come down from London to see the hill. Only about 60 miles- but at least he had the youth to cycle home again afterwards.
Back to where My friends were and right opposite us were all these gents walking around in Boaters. (The hats.) There were the Pickwick Cycling Club, and the sign says it all. Now I don't know how he got here, or who he belongs to- but nothing to do with me- The houseboy's brother was here- Standing alongside the Pickwick club.
12 noon and the "Caravan" started. All the sponsors had floats in this parade and It went on for about 45 minutes. Freebies thrown out but as I had the camera- and I did not want to lose my position- All I got was a packet of Haribo sweets and I hate Haribo sweets. They are disgusting. That passed and right opposite us was a pub that was doing fantastic business. The landlady was up in her lounge on the first floor and she was watching TV and giving us reports of the ride. The like of which is as follows.
They have just done the first Mountain climb at Tonbridge
Who won it
I don't know- Hold on ---- A Blue one.
Not much information, and that information was wrong, but all part of the Ambience of the day.
Then the leader came through- There was a breakaway of 5 and as you can see- The crowds had built up a bit by this time. Millar-came past in 4th and If I thought the Noise was loud for the first 3- It was tremendous for Millar. Crowds cheering him on and banging on the Placards on the Barriers- It was fantastic. These 5 had a lead over the pelaton of 6 or 7 minutes and When they came through- It was deafening. 30 seconds and they were through and it was the team cars and the spare team cars and the spare cars for the team cars. Then the officials and it was over.
The Buzz wasn't though and it was time for the Crowds to wend their way home. No way- The pubs were open and everyone was on a high. Me and Martyn got on our bikes and Started back to the car- along with about 500 other cyclists. We continued on the TDF route and it was here that it was just open country side with Big houses. The tables and chairs were still at the end of the drive and so were the Occupants and friends that were still enjoying the last dozen or so bottles of wine that they had not drunk. We were being clapped and cheered for the 5 miles we were on the route- but it did get a bit wearing to be told that we were a bit behind the others by a bunch- or rather bunches- of highly enebriated revellers that were going to parrty on till the wine was gone.
Now the TDF is a ride to be experienced- I have now seen it 3 times and if I can manage it- I am going to see it again next year. It is Unbelievable. the atmosphere- The Ambience- the "Je ne sais quoi"- but it is somthing that all cyclists should experience once in their lifetime. Just a pity that The US has not yet made an application to get it to Visit across the water so you can all experience it.