There are lots of people bunking off work this week, to catch a stage of the Tour of Britain. Tuesday was our turn. I dropped Bobby and Flo at school, then rode with John Krug up Jubilee Tower and through the Trough of Bowland to Slaidburn, where we started the tough climb up to Cross o’Greet, the spot we’d selected as the best place to watch the pro peloton pass by.
Jim Rose should have been with us, but he’d taken a spill riding along the shore of Coniston at the weekend, and was recovering from an operaton to determine the extent of the damage done to his hand. The news is it’s not too bad. Get well, and back on your bike, soon Jim.
John was on a bike he’s recently assembled, based around a Hewitt frame. It looks really beautiful, and seems to ride equally well. We’d only got home from a 60 mile ride around Kingsdale, Dentdale and Barbondale after midnight, so our legs groaned under the climb, but we reached the top ahead of the professionals, and installed ourselves alongside Sue and Tom Bone (not his real surname, but he plays the trombone, so that’s what we call him) who’d left Lancaster half an hour before us.
It was a glorious day, blue skies and sun shine, hanging out with other cyclists, and watching the pros come through – Nicholas Roche in a 3 man break, Bradley Wiggins comfortable in the bunch, Rob Hayles struggling (a result of a crash earlier in the race) off the back. Then suddenly over, and hordes of cyclists descending together off the fells – an utterly beautiful sight, and experience.
Watching the Tour of Britain pass along your local roads isn’t really about watching the Tour of Britain – it’s an excuse for a ride, a chance to re-affirm your sense of yourself as a bike rider, and to participate in a communal activity. I might say that ‘I’m doing my bit to support the sport’, but I also know that I’m supporting myself as someone who cycles, and continuing the everyday process of becoming who I’d like to be. It gives us a different, less ordinary, reason to get out there and ride.
That said, the professionals are magnificent. The speed they rode past us! And knowing they’ve ridden your roads changes your cycling scape. Earlier this year I rode the cobbled climbs of the Tour of Flanders – struggling up the Koppenberg, I could feel the weight of cycling history (after all, every rider who matters in the history of cycle sport has ridden that climb) pushing me up. Spine tingling stuff!
We descended to Wray for a lovely September lunch, basking outside with cyclists from elsewhere in the sunshine. At Bridge House Cafe they weren’t prepared for the sudden arrival of so many cyclists, and unsurprisingly ran out of baked beans! (Someone was sent down to the little local shop for more.)