The following guest blog was written by Chris Chapman a competition winner who won a 2 night break a Low Wood Bay and the opportunity to follow the race in one of the official Tour of Britain Race cars as the race passed through Cumbria in September.
Monday morning early and I’m in the car travelling across the fells to Carlisle. The riders are signing on as I arrive. This is where my involvement with the race would normally end but today is different. Thanks to my competition prize I am a passenger in one of the official cars leading out the riders through the streets of Carlisle. Then we head out towards the west; police motorcyclists zooming ahead to control the traffic, team cars with racks of bikes on their roofs, cameramen on motorbikes, all part of the cavalcade.
Then the rain started; driving soaking rain with a whipping wind off the sea. Did it deter the spectators? No chance! Full marks to the people of Cumbria for turning out in their thousands to cheer on the cyclists. Such enthusiasm – even a passenger like me in the official car got the treatment, and my arms got tired with waving to cheering crowds as if I was royalty. The school children were out in force; from the tiny tots in their matching hi-viz vests, smiling and waving, right through to the senior pupils, enjoying the occasion and undaunted by the driving rain.
The cyclists; unphased by the weather, they continue to ride through the worst conditions. In our official car we get in behind the breakaway group at the front. I have never been as close to the race – normally I stand at the roadside and the riders go passed in a flash, but now we stay with them, pedalling their way at speed up scary gradients and then after the summit, hurtling down so fast on winding roads that have become mini rivers in the rain, that the car has difficulty in keeping up.
The climb over Honister was special. Banks and banks of shouting, waving people moving aside like a sea as the car noses its way through the bodies. They all play their part in the race by cajoling and encouraging the riders over what seems to be a virtually un-cycleable slope.
Then on to Kendal and the final test for the cyclists through the cheering crowds on Beast Banks. Long after the winner has passed the line, late finishers are still slogging their way up the hill with the crowd encouraging them by banging on the boards. By now I am out of the car and in among the spectators at the finish. In a few minutes I am as wet as everyone else and I look forward to another part of my prize; a night at the welcoming Low Wood Bay on Windermere.
What a day – next time I will be back as one of the crowd lining the route – but I will remember the day I got closer to the action than I had ever done before.
- Written by Chris Chapman