I haven’t climbed a tree in years, probably not since I was about 14, but at this point there doesn’t seem to be much choice. The crowd is 10, maybe 15 deep on Constitution Hill. The police are stopping anyone getting closer to the finish to avoid overcrowding so I’m stood by the flamme rouge assessing my options. From the PA system I know the riders are leaving Richmond Park, they’ll be here in a little more than 10 minutes. There’s nothing for it, if I want to see anything I’ll need to climb the tree.
I ask the woman in the Italian cycling top if she can step out of the way so I push up off the lampost. I grab one of the low branches and then I’m scrambling up, pushing a grasping until I’m sat high up in one the trees that stands on the run in to the finish.
The PA announces that Wiggins is on the front trying to pull back the breakaway - a huge cheer goes up and the tree shakes a little, but my arms are wrapped around the trunk, and I have a perfect view onto the road waiting for the riders to swing round the bend and on to the finish.
As the riders fly round the corner, an almighty roar leaps up from the crowd - it’s not the British on the front as most of the spectators would want, but the atmosphere is electric. Even from my tree I can see the steely confidence in Vinokurov’s eyes, there’s no way he’s going to let Uran win this one.
Five British men have worn the yellow jersey at The Tour de France. Tom Simpson, Chris Boardman, Sean Yates, David Millar and now Bradley Wiggins.
I find nationalism a difficult area, especially in relation to sport (something which is going to be tested over the course of the next few weeks with the Olympics on our doorstep), despite this the performances of the British riders at La Grande Boucle is important to me.
In years gone by I’ve ridden a stage of the tour, trailed round france and camped out on the top of the alps to cheer the riders, bought L'Equipe, watched entire stages on Dutch TV and immersed myself in every book, magazine and podcast available. This year I'm more excited about “Le Tour” than ever.
Sunday morning. It’s overcast, but dry. Along the top road at Goathurst Common not far from Sevenoaks, there’s a a gentle hum of rollers and turbos whirring as the riders warm up. A long queue of spectators stretches back from the tea hut and the smell of bacon fat mixes with sweat and embrocation. There’s a good crowd lining the upper slopes of Yorks Hill, 707 yards of gradient, for the 114th Catford Hill Climb. The oldest continuing cycle race in the world brings out all types of riders and plenty of supporters to urge, cheer and cajole them up the viscous climb. There’s an average gradient of 12.5% but with a couple of nasty sections of 25%. More pictures on flickr.
Where Leth focused on the battle between Eddie Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck, directors David Deal and Dave Cooper take the battle between terrain and rider as their inspiration. The film is beautifully photographed, lingering shots of the treacherous cobbles are interspersed with rider interviews, some excellent photography and television footage of the 2007 race.
The access to some of the big names on the current cycling circuit is impressive, even Lance Armstrong pops up - however, some of the editting decisions seem awkward, and the battle to entwine the progress of the 2007 race into the story is sometimes a little heavy handed. It feels a little stretched at 86 minutes and might have been better nearer the hour mark.
Overall though it’s a cracking insight into the ‘Queen of the Classics’ and pro-cycling. If it wheels itself your way as part of the BFF world tour, then it’s definitely worth watching.