“We’re winning the race. Nobody’s catching this breakaway.” We had missed the press diversion and were now on our second lap of the closing circuit. Daniel was anxious and we had yet to realise that the riders were to complete three laps, not two.
It wasn’t the first mistake of the day. We missed the start altogether after the closed roads somehow caught us by surprise. Well, we didn’t miss it – we got to the press car park, but didn’t come close to where the action was.
Before that I got a jacket. I forgot to take a photo. Here it is. It’s startlingly adequate.
So yeah, we left Selby early, getting on the route way ahead of the race. Stop for coffee, stop for fish and chips, go to the Côte de North Newbald… Hey, where did the race signs stop? Where are all the fans? I guess we drove past the climb? Yep.
We got there in the end but needed to park. People everywhere, obviously, and nowhere to stop. So we should head back down the climb to that spot Raoul suggested then? Yeah let’s try that.
As with any race, the convoy – support vehicles, police and so on – is long. The police outriders come through some twenty minutes before the riders, to close side roads and keep regular traffic at bay. They arrived just as we started to head back down – cue reverse gear, high speed, back to where we just were. A parking spot will have to be improvised.
People are oblivious to the car. It’s a ton of metal on wheels manoeuvring onto a grass verge inches away from them and still they refuse to budge. This was a recurring theme.
Raoul stays in the car as the race passes, Daniel runs further up the hill, shooting the riders, the fans, god knows. I lie in the grass, taking totally pro low-angle shots with my phone. As ever, once the voiture balai (broom wagon) has passed there’s the mad rush to the car, beat the crowds away from the hill, beat the race to the Côte de Fimber, the only other climb of the day.
More thin ribbons of road, hills, troughs, pheasants to dodge, cars to pass. The car was definitely airborne at one point. We get back on the route at Wetwang, arriving at the hill with plenty of time to walk up. The climbs are more straightforward than yesterday’s – lesser gradients, wider roads, not massively interesting.
With a six minute advantage, the break had doubled their lead since North Newbald. Of course we had no idea who was in it, our three phones combined couldn’t muster a wi-fi connection between them, and we had no race radio.
The drive to the finish was less pressing, a straight road to York, meaning we’d be waiting for the race at the finish with enough time to see them pass three times. We should have realised that the press diversion would be at the press centre in York Racecourse (a kilometre out), but we drove past, not realising our mistake until after we had the finish line.
So we did another lap, another tour of York. There was much discussion in the car, arguments even, as we sped through the biggest crowds of the race. Daniel jumped out with two kilometres to go. We’d meet again at the finish, if he could fight through the masses.
He made it, just. He saw the riders twice, but I missed them pass on the penultimate lap – a coffee run in the press room. At the finish there were no interview either – the team hotels were close, so there were no buses to hang around.
Instead we watched the podium, a chance to drink in the ceremony, or rather just leave early because it’s not that interesting. David Millar hung out of the commentary box for a chat about his dinner with Daniel and his upcoming clothing line. Then we hitched a ride to the press room in the broom wagon.
Later we took some time to do some non-race stuff – eating Italian food (spaghetti vongole for me), looking at York cathedral, general mirth, before an evening photoshoot with MTN-Qhubeka back at the hotel. Oh, and I showed Daniel my Milwaukee Bucks t-shirt. He knows they’re real now.