Well not exactly but at 3 miles away close enough for this picture to seem like something from a dream. The reality of the the world’s third most popular sporting event came to Britain this weekend and stimulated many, many hundreds of thousands to turn out to witness the very brief passing of the race. My eldest son rode for three and a half hours on a mountain bike across desolate moorland to glimpse the first heroes to reach the summit at Oxenhope only to be distracted by an inconsiderate mobile call which almost caused him to miss the whole four minutes of excitement.
For my part, I extended the couch potato weekend of sport ( Both World cup games yesterday ) and some of Stage 1 of Le Tour into at least two hours of Stage 2 today. Only the last few games of the Men’s Final at Wimbledon to do. What was fascinating, apart from the nuances of the race itself, was the commentary by the ITV given by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. To pass the time, Liggett loves to season his cycling knowledge with poor French pronunciation and interesting facts about the history, geography and geology of the places the peleton passes through in a blur of rainbow lycra .
It is also remarkable for the sheer inaccuracy of most of it. The commentators probably get away with it in France as most of us couldn’t separate one King Louis from another and are not “au fait” with the finer points of the topography of Alsace-Lorraine, but, Phil, you need to brush up on your Pennine reservoirs ( Woodhead is not Ladybower) and it was Henry the Eighth not the Seventh who was responsible for the dissolution of the monasteries.
Cycling must now be as popular as it ever was. My father was a keen cyclist, a member of the Altrincham Ravens in the thirties and the picture below is from that time. He looks as though he was taking part in a hill climb possibly near Hayfield ( not 3 miles from where the picture of the signs above was taken )
At that time Le Tour was as exotic as the South Pacific today, brand names on jerseys were of things beyond most people’s experience. My father’s only experience of France came a few years after this photograph when he was forced to retire from the Royal Artillery team in early June of 1940 at Dunkirk after a bad crash with an opposing German team.