155. Le grand départ – the Tour de France in London 2007


The streets of London deserted … except for a million people lining the roads.

A Brit leading the Tour de France halfway through Kent, and pulling on the King of the Mountains jersey, later that same evening.

The best weather of the summer.

The Tour de France – in London, for the first time ever.

Truly, the weekend of a lifetime. And we were there, too.

On Saturday afternoon, we wandered happily from Green Park to the Serpentine, watching the cyclists flash by. The speed of the racers was simply unbelievable – Hyde Park Corner hasn’t seen traffic moving so quickly for many a long year.

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And on Sunday, the racing through Kent was marvellous, all day. It helped, of course, that David Millar was leading the race on the road, and that the sun was shining for the first time in a while. But there was a flavour to the event which was fuller by far.

The swooping helicopter coverage of the countryside captured the cinematic style which is the Tour cameramen’s own, whilst managing to portray the unspoilt and historic character of this part of England. There were enchanting views of Leeds and Rochester castles, of the Medway Forts, a hundred flint-built churches, and of so much open countryside in between.

The French captions which accompanied those pictures gave the scene a surreal and slightly foreign feel. Who ever would have thought that one quintessentially English village might boast an Église St Michel-et-tous-les-Anges ?

And down on the road, thanks to the motorcycle cameras, we experienced terrifying plummets through narrowly winding country lanes, and fought our way climbing up steep village streets to conquer the Côte de Goudhurst.

Glimpses of wonderful oast houses and ripening hopfields, framing a memorable journey towards a classic sprint finish where victory would finally fall to an authentic Aussie Tour great, Robbie McEwen.

The crowds were incredible all day, stretching several million strong and unbroken, from the capital to Canterbury. It felt right somehow, as if the Tour had been waiting for London, and for Kent, all along. And maybe it has.

 So, au revoir – Tour de France – et à bientôt.

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3 responses to “155. Le grand départ – the Tour de France in London 2007

  1. yo! Is the 100 year War forgotten forever? Goood! Nothing like sport and art for getting un-mixeable populations on the same planet!!!!

    Here’s a frog who’s jolly glad it was in London, and Roads, a Brit jolly glad it was in London toooooo!

    For us, the garlic folk, the Tour de France is as important as the Boat Race. InCONTOURNABLE!!!!!

    Run and ride, Roads, and continue giving us joy and “wind thru our hair” as Gigi would say.

  2. Thanks, Diane. It’s been a long wait to welcome the Tour back to our streets.

    Well done to Ken Livingstone and the Tour organisers for bringing it to London – what a backdrop.

    And hats off to the millions who came to watch, both in the capital and right across Kent. Who can say now that we British don’t care for our cycling ?

    Au contraire – ça roule !

  3. En français on dit même…….”ça roule ma poule”!!!!! Alors…roule bien Roads et run bien too..et vive “la petite reine”, autre terme populaire pour le vélo.

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