Day three and it’s the final stage on British soil before the Tour caravan crosses the English Channel for France. At 155km this ‘transitional stage’ is one of the shortest in this year’s Tour. The route was best described as pancake flat or at least considerably flatter than the so-called flat stage we saw in Yorkshire on Saturday. I always wonder about the phrase ‘pancake flat’. Obviously no one’s seen my attempts at making them.
In honour of the memory of the now defunct Euskaltel-Euskadi team, Gabriel Gate prepared a quintessential English dish of Steak and Kidney Casserole with Carrots. The absence of butter was a little disappointing and the Beurremetric Counter sits on 100g.
After a jaunt through the Essex countryside and with The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ blasting out over race radio, the peloton reached the edge of Greater London. By the time the riders hit the centre of London the race started to resemble more of a City Sightseeing bus stage than a transitional one.
Riders passed Olympic Park and Paul claimed to have met people who have actually swum in the pool of the Olympic Aquatic Centre. Well blow me down, we were all thinking it was only for show or frozen over for ‘Disney on Ice’ gigs on the school holidays.
The famous gherkin and City Hall ‘glass onion’ (or testicle, depending on your imagine) loomed into view before the peloton continued on past other landmarks such as the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London before a sprint on The Mall to the finish at Buckingham Palace.
Good thing the council put down that horse anti-slip coating for cavalry parades on The Mall because typical of London, it started to rain. So long as the riders could stay away from the ‘death-traps’ of white line markings and horse poo they knew that’d be safe.
Short of putting up dry stone wall barriers, not much could be done about keeping spectators off the road. All it takes is one berk with a Brownie box camera to step out on the road and get clipped, which is exactly what happened at around 30km to go. David Lopez (Sky) sent the Brownie flying and several riders went down. Trekie Andy Schleck, some metres from the downed riders, insisted the spectator had nothing to do with his chute and that the bike inexplicably threw itself to the ground with him on it.
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Peter Sagan (Cannonball) were all expected to duke it out on for line honours. Somewhere Greipel went missing in action and Kittel came thundering down The Mall like a Mack truck and was too good for Sagan by a bike length.
Vincenzo Nibali (Asstana) gets to wear yellow for the Tour’s resumption on French soil.