Tour de France 2011

Stage Seven, Friday 8th July 2011.

Tour de France continued.

The following photos were taken at about 1715hrs, much later than the scheduled time the Tour had been supposed to pass. We’d gone up to our junction just before two o’clock to position my wife’s Welsh flag and after securing it to trees on the corner both Sam and myself returned home leaving my wife behind with a group of locals that was to number about one hundred by the time the riders went past, not bad when you consider that this was replicated at many junctions along the route with many more in the villages. As at all the other junctions a Gendarme had been placed just to make sure that no vehicles attempted to access the route, in our case our Gendarme must have retired quite some years previously, nevertheless his holster was definitely holding the requisite side arm.

I’d switched the television over to ITV 4 just to keep an eye on the progress of the race just in time to discover that bad weather had caused delays north of Amboise and that a group of four riders and broken away from the main peloton, this was to remain the case until they were finally overhauled having just passed through Villedieu-sur-Indre on the road to Chateauroux .

Meanwhile we had made our way up to the junction to await the riders in plenty of time, little did I know that due to unforeseen circumstances we had loads of time. Prior to four o’clock the traffic shooting past was amazing, I counted over twenty Skodas, one of the main sponsors, Vittel seems to be another, prior to this vans sped past throwing out hats, sweets, packets of smoked sausages, key rings and much else. They call this the publicity caravan.

At just after five we realised that the Tour was arriving because of the noise overhead of the helicopters and the arrival of support vehicles, police outriders and cars, however what we couldn’t see had just happened out of sight round the corner, not more than six hundred metres away, a massive pile up that eventually precipitated the withdrawal of the principle ‘Sky’ cyclist Bradley Wiggins. The first four riders oblivious to events two minutes behind them swept past to be followed by many groups of riders instead of the races usual single chasing peloton, in all it took just over six minutes for the Tour to pass and by the time the race reached its climax in Chateauroux, which I might add was won by another Brit Mark Cavendish, the cyclists had formed into two main groups, the second group contained most of the ‘Sky’ team including the rider my better half was supporting, the Welshman Geraint Thomas. Geraint and some of his ‘Sky’ teammates had elected to wait for Bradley Wiggins to see if he could continue and help him to regain lost ground, sadly not to be and after visiting our local hospital Bradley flew home that night. So sad as it may seem our excitement is over for God only knows how many more years to come, at least I suppose I can say ‘I WAS THERE’.

It starts slowly with the Police escort

Overhead coverage helicopter

And Sam has crossed the road and deserted Bob, can't think why?

The first actual riders, the breakaway group of four

and their support vehicles, allowed up front as the group is more than a minute ahead

The following photos show what precedes the main group

And at last what we assumed was the peloton

Is that it? Looked more on the TV previous days! We seemed to be missing about half the field!

The helicopter stayed in one place, which signaled an accident had happened

Riders start to trickle passed us

Sky team riders seem to be more interested in what is behind them and are going very slowly.

Sky team appear to be missing their star rider. Most of the team wait hoping to bring him back into the race when he remounts his bike.

As the riders are coming through in dribs and drabs it looks to have been a bad accident.

The accident caused the field to be spread out so it took over six minutes for them to pass us.

Having already lost a lot of time on the main field the mechanics make adjustments en route.

And onto Pellevoisin

But not for Sky team member Bradley Wiggins en route in an ambulance to Chateauroux hospital

Having watched the race now for the first week one can't help but be impressed not only by the riders' stamina but how they cope with accidents. Sunday's race was marred by quite a few accidents, including a TV car hitting cyclists, one of which from the ill fated Sky team, Juan Antonio Flecha. And another being literally catapulted onto a barbed wire fence, incredibily he managed to get back on his bike and finish the race! He even had one of the race doctors hanging off a motorbike bandages his legs whilst the racer continued along the route. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM)was rewarded for his bravery by being awarded the Mountain red spotty jersey at the end of the stage. Hopefully their medical team will patch him up sufficiently to allow him to continue after Monday's rest day. And the driver of the TV car gets sent for an early bath in Paris!

Partly due to weather and road conditions Sunday's stage saw 12 riders out of the race after various accidents.Riders drop out as the race progresses due to exhaustion, but this year seems to have most of them exitting due to injuries after crashes. Sunday's list included Alexandr Vinokourov of Astana with a broken leg and fractured pelvis. Van den Broeck was reported to have a broken shoulder blade. Dave Zabriskie (Garmin) a fractured wrist. Frederik Willems (Omega Pharma) broken collar bone ending his Tour. This race takes no prisoners. As of Sunday evening 18 riders have left the race, mainly due to injuries. You have to admire these men because after all this they actually get back on their bikes when recovered to race somewhere else!

And now the photo you have all been waiting for ... the Welsh Supporter!