Actually excuse me.
OK so silly little jokes aside I have not been the best blogger in a very long time. In fact you might say I have been pretty poor at keeping the 3 people who regularly read this updated - sorry Kyle I know I said I would keep going with this.
The truth is blogging/writing has fallen down the list of things that I have been prioritizing lately. Which is a very clunky sentence and way of saying I have been doing other stuff. Namely getting established at my new school and if we are really honest riding/exercising as much as I can.
This is a really important shift actually and something I need to labour a little bit. So sorry and indulge me a second.
As stated before I have lost motivation and enjoyment when running. The training for ultras just did my head in a bit too much and I moved too far away from what it was that got me hooked on running to start with. Now however I have finished the ultra - 35 miles in 7 hours 22 - I have started limiting myself to shorter runs and have been enjoying it much more.
As you can see above I was still pulling a smile at the end of the very painful Ox ultra. Also note how strapped up my knees were. I feel that this was my upper limit in terms of time taken and just sheer physical pounding I could endure. I have no fixed plans to run another ultra for a very long time. I have however not been put off running - as evidenced by running the Heart of Kent Hospice 10km around Brands Hatch.
However it is this piece of exercise that has really taken me over lately.
Which brings me to Le Tour.
When it was announced that the tour was hitting Yorkshire for le grand depart my reaction was 'oh that's nice'. However as I have started to cycle more and as it got closer and closer I began to get more excited.
In the end a group of us decided we would make the pilgrimage and try to experience the race first hand. Unfortunately for one reason or another everyone started to drop out until it was left as just me. Luckily one of my best friends lives in Sheffield and I had a floor to kip on.
So the week of the tour roles along and nebulous plans are hatched to rock up to Sheffield on the Friday and head early doors to Leeds via train to watch the start. I would then head to Harrogate on the train and try to catch some of the finish. Another train journey back to Sheffield for the evening. Stop over then head up towards Meadowhall and the finish of stage 2. Back to the car and home late Sunday evening.
I got roped into playing in the year 13 leavers vrs staff football match at school (we won) and so left slightly later.
It was rush hour/week around London.
My route takes me along the M1 and past Northampton. It's British grand prix weekend and there are lots of people heading to Silverstone to set up tents on Friday for the weekend.
Add in roadworks, rain and your usual people who obviously have never driven before and when I finally rocked up very tired on Friday evening in Sheffield I was already dreading the drive home. Still Le Tour and a catch up with old friends will make it worth while.
The route map claims 3 hours but it took closer to 5 on Friday evening.
*Disclaimer - I am going to write about Saturday now, I will write about Sunday when the photos have updated*
Saturday morning was an early start. Partially to get out of my hosts hair before their children were up and about and to get on the way to Leeds. Mostly it was a combination of not being able to stay on the floor any longer and being excited.
I took a bus into Sheffield city centre and caught a train to Leeds. Northern rail were running a tour special rail ticket which cost £10 and allowed me to use any of their services for the day. This was excellent as a return Sheffield - Leeds - Sheffield was looking like being £20+. The train started fairly quiet and I wondered how close I might get to the roadside as there didn't seem to be many people. I chatted amiably with an older gentleman who was decked out in his finest (and much more expensive that what I wear) Lycra who was surprised he was able to get his bike on the train.
It took about half of the journey for the train to reach standing room only and then full capacity. For the last few stations we pulled up at platforms but no doors were opened. There was no entering or exciting this train.
I have never heard of this before but the platforms we passed were rammed and to be honest I don't think anyone was getting off the train before Leeds anyway.
Upon arriving at Leeds train station the full scale of what was happening hit me. I have traveled from Leeds to the midlands many times as a student. I have seen the station on a Friday night and at Christmas time. I have never seen it this busy.
I made my way out into Leeds and was amazed by the volume of people and the colour.
The day had started overcast and raining. I left my sunglasses at home and took a hat just to keep the rain off my face. By the time I was off the train in Leeds the hat was keeping the Sun out of my eyes and my waterproof was rolled up and shoved in my bag.
I wandered up to the Headrow via Briggate. Now if your not from Leeds those names will mean nothing to you but this was shrewd management of people by the council as Briggate is the main shopping street. It is pedestrianized and has lots of small shopping centres off of it.
I reached the Headrow and it became apparent that I was not going to be able to get down to the town hall for the start. So I slotted into a good viewing spot where I could and soaked up the atmosphere.
The atmosphere was like a festival, everyone chatting and chilling out excited for it to begin. Whenever an official or team car went past there were cheers and people waving and honking horns. Even the police - English and French - got in on the action.
I spoke to the people next to me and they had been there since 9 am. I was still stuck on my packed and delayed train then, the people at the front had been there since 7 am and most with children too.
I was gutted to hear that I had missed the caravan and with it all the free goodies but I didn't care. I had a good spot to watch the riders from and was in the sunshine.
I stood for a little over an hour as the crowd built up around me. There was not much shoving or jostling to get to the front everything was in good humour and very cordial. Eventually it started. We could hear the roar of the crowd as the riders approached. A cacophony or cheers, whistles and horns. I could see the flash of colours.
Then it was gone.
The team cars followed by.
Now I know that sounds rubbish. Really I do, I have tried to describe it to people but the best I can come up with is to talk about the atmosphere. That and the just the colour. The atmosphere and the colour. And the bikes. And the riders.
Basically what you have is a really awesome atmosphere, elite athletes hammering by at speeds some of my cars struggle with on thousands of thousands of pounds worth of bikes and in incredibly colourful Lycra.
As an event I can't think of much to compare to it or even to match it.
Once the team cars passed I wandered to the Angel Inn (hidden away but worth it if you can find it, cheap and friendly - my favourite Leeds pub) and reviewed my photos.
Oh the photos. I took a lot (nearly a thousand in two days) mostly taken with my phone over my head snapping blindly. Its a good system as I was also able to enjoy the racing!
I cropped and altered a load of pictures but was very impressed with what I managed to get - thank you s5 you did well!
After a cheeky pint in the Angel I wandered down to the train station.
I was routed back out of the train station to join the queue for the Harrogate train as per my original plan. The queue though was at least a quarter of a mile in length and that is no exaggeration.
It snaked down the side of the station and zig-zagged through the car park.
I then went to the start and was surprised that within 30 minutes they were already dismantling the start line. I turned my nose up at hyper expensive official merchandise and headed for a train to Sheffield disappointed that I couldn't see a large screen set up in Leeds anywhere.
In Sheffield I headed to the Peace Gardens and set up on there with a coffee to watch the rest of the stage. The atmosphere was chilled out and relaxed and everyone was enjoying the sunshine mainly and keeping and eye on the cycling secondarily. I wandered about the stalls and set up in Sheffield chowed down on a steak baguette and caught the last 30km of the stage on the big screen.
The crowds were epic for it. My friends dad and my friend (different friend not related to the other friends dad) who were both near/on Buttertub (a hill they climbed) both have said that it was an epic area with great crowds - my friends dad actually took his bike up the stage earlier in the day which was impressive.
When Cav crashed there was a huge groan from the crowd, for me though his team lost the sprint earlier by going too soon. They tried to break away with one last rise and too much of the route to go. This I feel cost them and put Cav in a position where he had to try and make something happen instead of keeping his shape and flying on.
Cancellara's solo break to the finish also seemed to disrupt Omega-Phama's pattern as they then had to hunt him down - and Spartacus has history with Cav and also has form for holding on to these final surges.
For me though - I love Cav but feel that his time has gone and I just can't get behind the mechanical Froome (sorry) - the day was all about Jens 'shut up legs' Voigt.
Like most Brits I love a character in sport. Jens is one of those with bells on and to see him hammer at the front on his own for most of the stage and take the KOM (king of the mountains) jersey in his last tour and at 42 years old was something special.
All that was left was for me to wander and meet my friend who had finished work and have a tourist style photo taken with one of the many yellow bikes around the city centre. It was a long start to the weekend but it was amazing, I really enjoyed it even though this day was spent largely on my own.
There is more to come based on the second day but I am waiting for the uploading photos to finish - cloud computing bah!