When I met my Trek Travel team in the hotel lobby I was so excited that I was shaking. We were about to ride from the Olympic Village to the finish line on the Tour de France route. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride through London without traffic.
We set off from the Olympic Park in Stratford and only made it a short distance before we had to pause because the streets were not closed on time. It is the largest annual sporting event in the world and it is a logistical marvel, but nothing is perfect. I learned a “traffic leak” is when traffic is stopped and a car gets through.
Trek Travel arranged it so we could ride the last 25 kilometers of the race. Guide Gabe followed us in the van with rock classics blaring. We were a moving party and the spectators and volunteers cheered us on. We stopped several times for photos and marveled again and again at “pinch me” moments. We rode through the Limelight Tunnel, past Tower of London, along the Thames, then under the shadow of parliament and Big Ben with no traffic.
When we turned the corner and saw the Queen Victoria War Memorial my heart skipped a beat. It is so beautiful and iconic and here we were on our bicycles. In addition, the crowds began cheering and beating the boards on the barriers. It was beyond thrilling. We all had silly grins on our faces and felt like rock stars.
When we arrived at the finish line we stopped for a brief photo op on the podium. Then it was a quick commute back to the hotel, lunch, and then off to the finish line with our VIP credentials. My orange bracelet gave me access to a viewing bus. I hopped up to the top (3 stories) and could see the finish line about 100 yards away. I scored two more autographs: Alexander Vinokourov (rode with Lance and with Astana) and the announcer Paul Sherwen.
Marcel Kittel won the sprint to the finish. It was fun to watch from my birds nest perch. Will not likely have that opportunity again. My favorite moment was a few minutes after the Peloton crossed the finish. A racer from Tinkoff-Saxo came straggling in and stopped on the side of the route and handed his water bottle to a 4 year old little boy. The boys face lit up and beamed as he cradled the water bottle in amazement. It was the sweetest moment.
I finagled my way to the side of the podium to see the Stage 3 jersey presentations. I spent quite a bit of time wandering around “behind the curtain” photographing the electricians, journalists and others who make the Tour go. (Look for blog on rest day.) Then I returned to the hotel to shower and change for dinner.
Our team went to Rowley’s in St James for dinner. We had a splendid meal and some good laughs. The night continued at the Hard Rock Cafe and the hotel bar. It was a late night especially as I have not been training for partying any more than I have for climbing hills! Good times.
If you have ever considered taking a Trek Tour bike adventure and were a little taken aback at the price, it is worth every cent because of the fabulous guides who make so much magic happen for our team. Thank you Gabe, Ilona and Sam. I will miss you in France.