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A view from the roundabout: It’s over here! (Listener 4301)

Posted by Jaguar on 25 Jul 2014

Friday afternoon, and I am on the train from Edinburgh to Leeds, to see my family and join my Mum in watching the Tour de France on its historic visit to Yorkshire. What a day we have in store! The most famous cycling race in the world, passing no more than a few minutes’ walk from our doorstep.

I can never decide4301 if it’s a good or a bad thing to have a mobile phone that can connect to the internet. Sometimes you just want to be cut off, you know? Still, there I was, at a few minutes past four, just arriving at Darlington, and the week’s Listener is available, so I have a look. I was expecting to have a proper look at it on Saturday. Perhaps even while I’m waiting for the cyclists to pass by. A bizarre preamble, but the clues seem accessible, and after solving a couple I decide to draw the grid where there’s a convenient gap in Friday’s copy of The Times. More clues drop out, and within twenty minutes I’m entering YELLOW JERSEY in the relevant down entries and smiling to myself at how I’ll be enjoying watching the race itself the next morning. I’d not heard of ORPIN before, and WANNABEE took a while, but I have a full grid and still twenty minutes to spare before getting in to Leeds at a little after five o’clock. I think I’m not the only one who completed this in record time, but I enjoyed the clues and there’s a smile at seeing a theme so relevant to my weekend plans. And besides, I’m busy on the weekend, so no complaints about having an easy ride on the crosswording side!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s now Saturday morning, and after being dragged out of bed early, Mum and I have made our way to the first of two roundabouts near where Scott Hall Road crosses the Ring Road. The peloton won’t pass us for another three hours but already there’s a fair number of people here. Still, we’re able to set up in a pretty good position, with a clear view up the hill to the next roundabout. It’s cloudy at the moment, but we set up our camp chairs next to the barrier and settle back. More people arrive, and with two hours to go it’s suddenly packed. Then some cars and floats start to arrive, along with a smattering of enthusiastic amateur cyclists who are cheered along. The loudest cheers are reserved for the family cyclists. A mother and father pass by, young kids seated at the back of the bikes, and are treated as if HRH Prince George himself were honouring us with his presence. One enthusiastic young woman across the road loses her balloon, and is applauded when she manages to retrieve it. The various policemen get the loudest cheers of all so far, especially when they respond. One cheekily waves his hand: “louder! I can’t hear you…” he seems to be saying. The crowd responds.

The clouds disappear, and it’s a glorious sunny day. A red kite hovers in the distance. The crowd is now huge, ten deep in some places. More floats, cars, gendarmeries, voitures officielles pass by. It’s now gone 11am and the peloton is about to set off from the Headrow. Ten minutes to go. And still the crowd gets bigger.

The imminent arrival of Froome, Cavendish et al is first signalled by two helicopters hovering almost directly overhead. Then we hear the loudest cheers of the morning start from the other side of the roundabout, and here they come, Froome and Cav in the lead and the rest behind. The whole of the peloton passes in no more than 20 seconds. But still the show isn’t over, and we are treated to some stragglers, the technical crews for the various teams (Team Sky’s truck receives another loud cheer), and then another set of amateur cyclists at the start of perhaps their own attempts to cycle the same route as the main Tour. The crowd thins, but those who stay continue to egg them on. At last, there’s no-one left to cheer for, and we head off home.

My first-ever experience of live sport. I’m not sure that Road Cycling is as much of a spectator sport as tennis, or rugby, or track cycling for that matter, but it was great fun. Another million people thought the same, it seems, as the Tour de Yorkshire has apparently the highest attendance ever for a Grand Depart. Great fun, anyway, and I’m sure I’ve got the bug for live sport now. Who cares that I didn’t get to see much? The atmosphere is what it’s all about.

As I type this, it’s Saturday evening and Cavendish is in hospital after a nasty crash near the finish line. I hope it doesn’t ruin the rest of the Tour for him, but it’s not looking good. Perhaps, as you read this, things will be going better for Chris Froome, as he makes his way into Bergerac in, hopefully, the Maillot Jaune. (20 July edit: Or not. Oh well!)


One Response to “A view from the roundabout: It’s over here! (Listener 4301)”

  1. […] a lengthier break. I was on the train again, but unlike in Jago’s Tour de France puzzle, No 4301, there was to be no speedy solve scribbled on a gap in Friday’s copy of The Times. Instead, […]

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