After some last minute arrangements seven of us from the club travelled down to suburban south west London to watch the Olympic Time Trials. The original plan was to take our bikes, but with the sort of joined-up infrastructure the railways offer we decided against it We still got a ride in though with our inaugural Boris Bike club run to Waterloo Station.
Kingston was the closest point where we could watch both the mens and women’s races so we took a slow train there. On arriving the roads were empty but the pavements were heaving. Collecting a map, a Gamesmaker advised the Bridge across the Thames was already busy and that we might be better off walking down the High Street. Obviously we knew better and headed over to the bridge. It was busy. We crossed over to the other side, and Hampton Court road was thickly lined with spectators.
We saw a few of the women flash past, but the our views were not spectacular. So with little chance of improving our situation we re-evaluated, deciding to find a better position for the Men’s race. After crossing the bridge, the women’s circuit struck west for Hampton Court, while the men’s continued north along the High Street. The High Street was lined with barriers, but very few people. So we found a good spot, hung out our flags, got some sausages and chips then waited.
The crowds started to build up and as the last of the women flew by there was a mass exodus in our direction. We had sacrificed the women’s race, but we had found a prime position for the mens.
Police and support motorbikes started coming through. Some riders gave a friendly wave to cheers from the crowd, other just rode on. People started checking their watches, calculating average speeds and distances covered. Anticipation rose, the first riders would be through at any moment. A motorbike came through with greater urgency, a cheer went up, the first rider went through. The procession had started.
Japenese rider and Europcar stalwart Fumiyuki Beppu was the first rider through to take his minuteman; Irish tester David McCann received the first big cheer; Hollands Lars Boom and New Zealander Jack Bauer were well received too, but the decibels notched up a level as Belgium’s Phillipe Gilbert blasted by with his distinctive teeth clenched race face. The cheer went up again then muted, it was Vinokourov shimmering by in his silvery skinsuit, not a favourite with this crowd. Ryder Hjesdal, Boassen Hagen, Denis Menchov. The procession of big names continued.
The big guns were lining up now. 3 O’clock and Chris Froome set off. As each rider went by phones came out and twitter streams were urgently checked. Time checks were passed between anxious strangers. Michael Roger’s had the advantage, no Froome had put time into him, either way Sky riders were doing well. News came through that Sanchez had broken a chain. With Cancellara and Martin suffering from injuries I had had him down as a potential podium finisher.
15:07:30 Wiggo set off. Now the race was really on. The first time checks were coming through. Roger’s time fell to Froome who fell to Martin. Wiggins and Cancellara came through and Martin’s time held, 5 seconds faster than Wiggins. The Germans standing behind us were happy. The tension was ratcheted up.
At the second time check Froome took the lead only to be beaten by Martin. Martin’s lead didn’t last for long. Wiggins moved ahead and Cancellara had no answer.
Michael Rogers came through then Bert Grabsch. If they stuck to order Sylvain Chavanel would be next. A police motorbike came through, the officer gesturing with his hand, working the crowd up. He didn’t look like a Gendarme on loan, and he wasn’t. A wave of noise roared around along the bridge around the corner, Chris Froome barrelled towards us, Chavanel trailed in his wake.
Pinotti and Phinney were next. Sanchez had punctured and was now way off the pace. Tony Martin. The Germans cheered and his entourage passed. The expectant crowd turned to watch the bend in the road. A thousand spectators fell silent as they willed the time away. Wiggins had started 90 seconds behind Martin. At the final time check that margin was reduced to 68 seconds. The TV helicopters circled and we waited. A motorbike came through. A murmur rippled through the crowd then ascended to a thunderous cheer as the 2012 Tour de France Winner coolly swept by. We had waited less than a minute for Wiggins to show.
Only Cancellara was left. The seconds stretched to minutes before Spartacus completed the field. From the time gap to Wiggins, Saturday’s crash had clearly knocked his form, very disappointing for such a great time triallist and popular rider.
The crowds now dispersed with haste looking for televisions wherever they could find one. We crammed into a chip shop to see Tony Martin coming home, knocking Froome into second position. Then it was Wiggins across the line and the time said it all, 42 seconds faster than Martin. Bradley Wiggins had Gold, Chris Froome the Bronze. Kingston erupted.
We did the only thing we could do and went to a pub. We got the beers in as the medal ceremony started. Silence fell over the pub as the winners took to the podium, Hampton Court Palace the backdrop. The flags were raised, the national anthem struck up and a couple of hundred celebrating fans burst into song.
After a couple of beers we had a quick look at some bike porn on display in Sigma Sport. Wives and girlfriends should be proud of the restraint we showed! Still a great day out, a great race and a greater result. Chapeau Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin and Chris Froome.