This is at least the sixth year we’ve been to a stage of the Tour of Britain … but we’d never before tried to be at the finish line. In fact, quite often we’d pick a site, watch the race go through, and be back home in time to watch the finish on the television!

We knew it would be a rather different experience.

For a start, usually when we arrive at our chosen spot, we are among the first arrivals. We often park the car by the side of the road and watch as the crowd grows over the next couple of hours until the race goes through. Then the crowd melts away in moments, some of them in a rush to find another likely spot on route to see more of the race.

This time our arrival was delayed by the simple fact that the access roads to the finish had been closed the night before! Elsewhere on the course (apart from the start, of course) the roads are closed only a matter of minutes before the race actually arrives – it’s called ‘The Bubble’ and makes use of a large team of motorcycle police to continually leapfrog the race and close the roads ahead of the riders. It means that disruption to traffic is kept at a minimum, and that it’s relatively easy both to access the site and to move on afterwards.

There was a ‘park and ride’ facility, but I object to paying to park on the moor (!), and we had seen suitable stopping places along the way, so we doubled back and found a lay-by … we were a little nervous leaving the car there as there were cones along several miles of road, and most  lay-bys had been cordoned off. But we needn’t have worried – by the time we got back to our car, most of cones had been moved or ignored, and the lay-bys reopened by weight of public demand :lol:

Anyway, it meant a walk to the site, just by Haytor Rocks. It was a fairly dull morning but dry and the scenery was just as beautiful as it always is. So we finally arrived about 11.30am, some three hours before the race was expected to finish, and we found a spot right by the finish line. No clear view of the road – the finish was at the summit of the climb (the first summit finish in the ten year history of the race) and on a bend. But we were content since we were at the line, able to see the big screen and had a good view of the podium :) (The greatest crowds gather on the uphill sections, because the riders slow down so you get to see rather more of the riders than on a downhill section!)

There was plenty to keep us occupied. There was a competition for the local schools, primary and secondary … an uphill race on the final kilometre of the course (a category 1 climb by Tour of Britain standards). The average speed was around 4 minutes, and the riders were exhausted by the time they rode (or walked) over the line. The winner of the senior schools race clocked less than 3 minutes :o !!

I don’t know who the MC was, but he kept the crowd engaged and excited the whole time … and provided a running commentary on the television pictures once the live coverage commenced. Very impressive.

As the race drew closer, the crowd grew, and by the time the race was coming up the hill we were at the front of a crowd 20 people deep – there wasn’t a lot of room to move …

The winner was most unexpected … Simon Yates powered up the final climb and won by a clear margin … this is my somewhat blurry photo of the moment he crossed the line …

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… and this is the official, Tour of Britian website photo of the same moment …

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I don’t know why I bother!

I managed a reasonable shot of Mark Cavendish crossing the line in a pack …

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(He’s on the far right)

And I even managed a shot of Sir Bradley Wiggins crossing the line … sort of …

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You’ll have to take my word for it that it is, indeed, Sir Brad!

But I knew I would have a much clearer view when he came on to the podium as current race leader …

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Altogether I took over 200 photos of the day … many of them not worth sharing (the joy of digital photography is that it doesn’t matter how many you take!). But here are a few more, including some of the riders but also some of the scenery. It is a spectacular place in any weather, but by mid afternoon the sun had emerged and it was a glorious day. Roll on next year!

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