… and we’re on Dartmoor again! I’ve been to watch the Tour pass by each year for five or six years now. I try to arrive at a suitable place with a good view a couple of hours before the Tour is due through, and usually I’m the first there. Over time, more people come along and a crowd builds up, amateur cyclists pass by at first in ones or twos and then in droves, then the police motor cyclists and Tour outriders come through and close the roads, piggybacking their way across country. One year I counted over 45 police bikes and race marshals through before we ever saw sight of a race rider …

We left in good time this morning, heading for Merryvale, and the car park opposite Cox Tor. But we never reached our destination. There were the usual number of cyclists on the roads to the route, but as we passed Princetown there were already quite large crowds in attendance, and the further we went (travelling in the opposite direction to the Tour), the more cars we saw already parked up on the side of the road. Eventually, in sight of the Dartmoor Inn at Merryvale, beneath the glowering face of the quarry, we pulled over to consider our options. And there we stayed … we had a view down the road to a bend, so the cyclists would be pulling uphill towards us, and we could glimpse the road ahead, through the trees, to be able to tell when they were on their way – perfect.

Our view of the race route

We spent the next hour trying out different camera angles, exploring the terrain, making good use of our flasks (DH had coffee while I had hot chocolate) and chatting to people as they passed by. The weather was lovely, not too much of a breeze, and sunny yet with sufficient cloud to animate the scenery. The crowds began to build as more and more cars and cyclists pulled over and set up their cameras and picnics. Various team cars began to pass by, although the roads were clearly not yet closed as there were still cyclists and other vehicles among them … where did they all come from? And then the first police outrider … no more general traffic, but the stream of race marshals and other official vehicles continued, and finally the commentator telling us that there was a break away of ten riders with a four minute lead over the peleton.

It was only a moment or two then, before we could first hear and then see the helicopter that shadows the race providing pictures for the television coverage … and a first sight of the riders at the brow of the hill and time to set up our cameras for one last time …

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Probably the best photo of the day was taken by DH –

The lead group of ten riders

It was of course over in a flash … and not even a glimpse of Mark Cavendish to show for it! But we’re glad to have some good pictures to share, not least so that we can then look at them at home to identify just exactly who we did see on the day! Once the broom wagon that follows the race goes through, you know there are no more riders behind and it’s time to pack up and wait for the roads to clear for the drive home. It’s only a matter of minutes before the scenery is once again undisturbed and looking as if no-one has passed that way in a while …

Despite never catching the breakaway, Plymouth born Jonathan Tiernan-Locke retained the overall race lead and the yellow jersey with one day of racing to go.

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