FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Tour de la forêt de Epping

Posted in England, Epping by folkestonejack on July 7, 2014

The Tour de France made a welcome return to the UK this weekend, seven years since the last visit, with the grandest of Grand Départs and two rather special stages in Yorkshire.

Over the weekend, I marvelled at the footage of vast crowds in the remotest of spots on the route – spectators lining locations such as the Côte de Buttertubs in much the same way as you would normally only expect to see on the high mountain finishes in France (think Alpe d’Huez or the Col du Tourmalet). To be honest, it was a weekend filled with incredible images throughout, though I think my favourite has to be the shot of the field climbing their way up the cobbled main street in Haworth.

Alongside the racing, the television coverage delivered a travel guide to a series of appealing tourist sights – all served up with the most absurd, but quite delightful, franglais. In my household it caused endless mirth to see labels such as le chateau de Bolton and la cathedrale Saint-Pierre de York appear on the screen. The best use of franglais had to be the Côte de Jenkins Road though!

Today the tour headed south, moving back towards the motherland, with a stage from Cambridge to London. Naturally, we didn’t want to miss out on our chance to stand by the roadside and cheer – so we set off on a little trip to la forêt de Epping. We chose a spot 800 metres away from the sprint, perfect to see Cannondale wind things up for Peter Sagan (only for Bryan Coquard of Europcar to snatch the points for third place on this occasion).

Peter Sagan (fourth from right) in the Cannondale train on the approach to the Epping Forest sprint

Peter Sagan (fourth from right) in the Cannondale train on the approach to the Epping Forest sprint

It is hard to explain the appeal of an event that really does flash past you in seconds (though my better half is quick to remind me that this is precisely what I do with some of my rail photography…) however, it is the wonderful atmosphere at the roadside that makes this special. The madness of the caravane (a procession of sponsors vehicles, throwing all sorts of tat to the crowd) certainly plays its part. It really is about so much more than the moment – though, when that comes, it is unbeatable!

The story of today’s stage was fairly predictable – an all day break (by early escapees Jean-Marc Bideau and Jan Barta) kept under close scrutiny by the peloton and gathered up without too much difficulty as the race entered London (around 6km from the finish). The result of the final sprint was fairly predictable, such is the dominance of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) at the moment. There were no surprises in the scale of the support either – the crowds lining the route were just as impressive today (especially with it being a working day) and looked simply astonishing in Cambridge, Saffron Walden, Finchingfield and on Epping High Street.

It is no surprise to hear that the Tour de France has attracted five million roadside spectators over its three day UK visit. I hope this means that it won’t be too long before the tour is back on our shores…


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