For the afternoon of Sunday 5th September I had booked a National Trust visit, and I had received a few days earlier an email from them saying to allow more time to arrive because the Tour of Britain would be passing nearby, which could disrupt traffic. On looking into it further, I could see that the very start of Stage 1, eastwards along the Western Promenade, was to be just two minutes’ from my BnB in Penzance, and also that, because it would be looping round to go westwards, there would be an opportunity for me to see it going by just ten minutes’ walk from where I was staying. Having been knocked off my bike on the way to school by a careless motorist at the age of 15, and walked to school thereafter, I haven’t cycled since. (As a result?) I’m sadly not interested in cycling as either a spectator or a participant, but I could see that there might be some good photo opps.
It was diversions already in place which had given me the tour of Penzance (I exaggerate a little) the previous afternoon, and investigating the start area which had been the subject of my brief photographic excursion in the evening:
After a good breakfast on the Sunday, I made my way, double-masked – very few had any sort of mask on at all, – down to the front, to be there an hour before the start. There were already many people, both milling and static.
Twenty minutes later I left, and masses of people were streaming in. I was thinking to go up the hill to where I would be able to see the riders actually going by, instead of just launching themselves. I had time to return to my room and had a chat with Alan, my landlord. As I walked up to the top road, among the many people streaming down hill was a very familiar face, a man I recognised as a presenter on the telly, with a woman, presumably his wife, and twins in a buggy. Only later could I place him – Steve Backshall the naturalist, and his wife, Olympic champion rower, Helen Glover (whom I now know is from Penzance, and went to the public school near where I live on a sports scholarship).
I was up on the top road by 10.40, (the race due to start at 11.00), and there were so few people there that I checked that with one of the police officers (not these!) that the race would indeed be passing along that road in due course.
I found myself an excellent vantage point. A few more people had the same idea as I as the minutes passed.
At about 10.45 the children’s race came by.
Then a few more, not sure what category.
Was this nurse prudently hanging on, before crossing to the care home behind me, or positively interested in the race?
At 11.04, came the main peloton. I was shooting on burst, at 5 pictures a second. My camera took 20 pictures – which means the whole thing went past in four seconds!
The follow-up support took much, much longer.
After all that excitement, I wandered on into the centre of the town, then down to the front, and back along the Western Promenade from which my car had been barred the previous afternoon.
I thought perhaps that this was an ecclesiastical building turned to Mammon, but in fact it has always been secular. It’s the Market Building, Grade I listed.
I was pleased to see all the granite paving stones.
Back to the start, nearly deserted.
Taking down the dais, to be erected at the next day’s start point?
There was still a small crowd at one point. As I approached the screen I could see why.
As I returned to my BnB, I was pleased to see that I would be able to drive away from the area in the afternoon with no hindrance. And I further reckoned that the cavalcade would all be well past the NT attraction I had booked on to for the afternoon.