Last Saturday was the final day of the Tour of Britain professional cycling race and the final stage was in Greater Manchester. Starting in Altrincham the route took it through all of the boroughs in the Metropolitan County, including Wigan, before finishing in a sprint on Deansgate in the centre of Manchester.
For many years I’ve followed the Tour de France, mainly watching it on the TV, but have seen 4 stages live – once in Skipton when it visited Britain and 3 times in France. So given as the British Tour was going to pass just a few miles from my house, I decided I should go up to the other side of Haigh Woodland Park and watch the riders speed past.
And speed past they did! It was a flat stage and so they were pedalling at at 30 or 40 mph as they rode down School Lane, where I was standing amongst the crowd, heading towards Haigh before carrying on through Aspull, Hindley, Atherton and Tyldsley and then on through Salford towards Deansgate. I tried to get some photos, but not being experienced at sports photography, most of my efforts were rather blurred and poorly framed.
First of all the Police motorbikes sped past followed by a number of cars. The sound of the TV helicopter heralded the arrival of the riders. A single bike was in the lead followed shortly behind by a large breakaway pursuing group. More police, and team cars followed before the arrival, a few minutes later of the peloton. It was all over in about 5 minutes.
The Council had arranged a number of activities in the park and had a large screen showing the TV broadcast of the race so I stopped to watch. They were going at some pelt and the race was over with the final sprint about 40 minutes after I’d seen them on Scool Lane. That was some going!
The stage was won by the Dutch rider, Mathieu van der Poel, who was also the overall winner of the race.