The Tour de France ran just south of Maastricht, through the Ardennes, last year, but I didn’t drive down to watch the race. So the organizers moved it to my doorstep this year.
How could I refuse?
The third leg of the Tour kicks off from Parker’s Piece in Cambridge tomorrow morning at 12:15. A lot of folks are leaving town to avoid the closed roads and massive crowds: I was able to book a room at the College and drove up this morning to catch the pre-race festivities ahead of looking for a place to watch along Trumpington.
The town was quiet this afternoon: an 800-year-old institution isn’t going to change it’s ways (much) to accommodate a few yellow jerseys. The race route runs along the high street to the Round Church, then hooks back along Kings Parade to pass all of the iconic Colleges and Senate house. It scoots past the Fitz, the Judge, and the Biotech Institute, then out towards where I used to live before turning off near the park--ride to cross open countryside towards Duxford and Saffron Waldon, eventually reaching London. It sounds like it will be moving very fast: less than 5 minutes for the racers to pass a standing point.
But the crowds will be huge: I’m torn between walking over to the course very early in the morning, or driving out towards Great Shelford. Parking will be the concern: a stroll at 6 am, ahead of the 7 am closure of the town center, is probably the bet course.
The families and couples thickened as I walked the race route towards the start. There are flags zig-zagging over the course, luminescent arrows pointing where riders should be going. Most business have bicycle themed signs or art in their windows: Cambridge Wine Merchants was among the best.
The Piece had a festival atmosphere, a big-screen TV showing the live feed from the Race, traversing Yorkshire, and World Music stages scattered among bicycle-themed service tents. The food vans were definitely angled towards French cuisine, a smattering of Alsace, and lots of (ironic) garlic in everything. I had a potato, bacon, and sausage Tartiflette, a glass of Pimms, and settled in to enjoy the music.
If the weather is as good tomorrow (and it should be) it will be a very enjoyable day – ‘hope to get close enough to see the racers.