A Grand Day Out
I was sitting in the pub quietly holding my pint (of water) when one of the lads started talking about the Tour de France and mentioned that it was going through a little village in the Dales called Kettlewell which he knew well. The next thing I knew Steve, Martin, Chris and I were making plans to set off at some ungodly hour apparently to get there before they closed off all the roads in and out. Steve likes to err on the side of caution (to say the least) and constantly kept putting the time back earlier and earlier as “we would not find anywhere to park, all the best vantage points would be taken” etc. etc. So Saturday morning at 2:30am!!!!! we set off in the pouring rain with waterproofs, wellies, brollies and the obligatory packed lunch to feed an army. Martin drove through the pouring summer rain and along the pitch black country roads. We arrived just after 4:30am having seen only one other car for the last hour and pulled into one of the no doubt hundreds of empty parking spaces in the village. Then for some reason there seemed to be a need to explore the area as the riders would be zooming through in just nine hours time!! Being a thoroughly miserable bastard all I wanted to do was go to sleep but decided to pretend to have a desperate need like the others to scout out the perfect vantage point before the expected two hundred thousand spectators came charging over the hill to stand five deep on every square inch of ground. Eventually 6:00am came along and we said if the organisers are closing off the road at 6:00am no one will be able to get in or out of Kettlewell as there is only one road passing through it. That was it! Kettlewell was sealed off to all but cyclists and anyone who felt like scaling the local mountains which hemmed us in. The hundreds of thousands would not make it. So we set off to explore the same roadside again just in case there were actually fifty people in each of the dozen or so two man tents in the local, nearly empty, camp sites.
Thankfully the rain eased off and the sky began to brighten. Martin and Chris wandered towards the bottom of what is laughingly called a hillside but was more like a cliff face and the next thing I knew they started to walk further and further up it. Like a moron, with a full camera rucksack on my back, I started to follow as the photographer in me took over and thinking “if I just went a little way I might get a better shot of the landscape”. After realising I was more than half way up, with Martin waving to me from the top, I carried on up what must have been a sixty degree climb. Eventually I made it and I must admit the scenery was wonderful. I now knew what Sir Edmund Hilary felt like. However as I sit here writing this my thighs are on fire!!!
The morning wore on, the sun came out, the village began to fill up and eventually the ‘Tour’ started to creep into to Kettlewell. The ‘Caravane’ is a parade of sponsors’ vehicles in all sorts of weird designs and they came through with horns blaring and full of people frantically waving at everyone along the route. I had decided to settle myself along the road leading out of the village where I could get low down if I wanted or stand on a wall. Then about five helicopters came along the valley like something out of ‘Apocalypse Now’. A couple of minutes later the three leading cyclists came whizzing past followed a couple of minutes later by the mass of cyclists in the Peleton. I was positioned in what is normally a pedestrian area with a painted line along it and had decided to crouch as low as possible to get some hopefully dramatic shots with my fish eye lens. The only problem was the cyclists decided to ignore the road markings and charged along it. As I was crouched down and jammed myself into the grass verge some of them could not see me until they were right next to me so they rode passed very, very close. It made for some great shots but it was rather hairy to say the least. It took 29 seconds from my first shot to my last for them to go whizzing by at over twenty fives miles per hour. I had only been there for eleven hours
I met up with the rest of the lads and then we were told the road out of the village would not be open for cars for at least another two hours and I did not realise until the way home I was starting to turn a nice shade of burnt lobster!. Hey ho!!
I must admit I really enjoyed the day. Great mates, great scenery and the experience of a lifetime. All in all a Grand day out 🙂
A video slideshow of the day can be viewed here
Some of the beautiful scenery around Kettlewell
Some of the amateur riders making a late dash along the route before the pros get there
The leaders arrive in Kettlewell
The mass cyclists in the Peleton go flying past
And twenty nine seconds later it was all over. Worth it though 🙂