We went to see the Tour de France, which started here in London this year. It was the first time ever for the race to go through London and the first time it had been in England since 1994. Opening ceremonies and preliminaries were at Trafalgar Square. The actual Tour started at Greenwich on Sunday. This first leg of the race went from Greenwich to the Coast.
To get there, we just walked a couple of blocks and hopped on a local bus to Woolich Village (in the borough of Greenwich). So we avoided the starting crowds and had a great view, without having to get up at daybreak.
About an hour before the riders were due, there was a parade to entertain the crowds. The sponsors threw out favors (bottled water, pens, sticky pads) and broadcast advertising messages, mostly in French, but some British and some Australian. We didn't notice any USA presence at all in the "caravan" (parade).
There was lots of security, but no problems. We had a nice visit with three British policemen, who were a little bored as the crowd was gathering. They had fairly easy duty over here in Woolich. There were thousands and thousands of people at Trafalgar and in Greenwich at the start of the race.
France even brought some of their own gendarmes with them.
We could not believe how quickly the racers sped by. They were still pretty much in a pack at this early stage of the day. The mass of riders is called a peloton; they ride like that to cut down on wind resistance.
The Australian rider, Robbie McEwen, who won this leg of the race fell later on this same day -- but still got back on and won the day. After the racers went by, a whole line of cars with extra bikes followed -- apparently, the riders can switch bikes when they need to.
We hadn't expected to see this famous race while we were in Britain. It was a good day, with absolutely perfect weather. We also enjoyed walking around Woolwich, which has a very interesting history itself.