After the heat of Stage 1, it was a relief to wake to a cooler day. As we were packing our things it even rained a little.
It was surprisingly quiet as we stepped out of the hotel. As we began driving the course (on it's lap around the Old Town) we found out why.
The streets were packed with people waving and cheering at the cars coming past. It felt like every man, woman and child in Utrecht was there, and in full voice.
It seemed to take forever to get out of the city. Even when we did, the trail of spectators continued virtually unbroken all the way to Gouda.
Just over the other side of town I had spotted some wind turbines and a nice long stretch of road. There was also a convenient escape route that would take us to the finish, hopefully beating the riders.
The location was OK but the angle I was hoping for was virtually impossible, due to the canal dug out all around the field. I traced the perimeter without luck, the entrance must have been on the furthest side.
I found a spot at the top of the overpass that was as close to a hill as you will find around these parts.
The weather had turned and the spectators who had dressed for a hot summer’s day were now wrapped in plastic ponchos and garbage bags, whilst others huddled in their cars and beneath umbrellas as the rain started to fall.
When the riders did come into view they were spread across the road – trying to hide from what would be generally be considered as cyclonic conditions. However, I’m guessing, judging by the wind turbines, that it is a fairly regular occurrence in these parts.
The riders were now pushing into a strong headwind as they tried to maintain their speed up and onto the overpass. I saw Contador give his team mate a nudge to keep the pace up.
Back in the car and the rain was now coming down hard. With the wipers set to max and the wind really starting to blow the Beardy mobile around, I can only imagine how hard it was out there racing a bike in these types of conditions.
Then it stopped – almost suddenly. By the time we arrived in Zélande the sun was starting to break through the clouds again.
I set up for the finish line shot, packing in with all the other photographers. The guy in front assured me he would duck down at the right time as he was completely blocking my view. I stared long and hard at him – a leap of faith?
Soon enough the riders came into view and it’s a bunch sprint. True to his word, the photographer in front ducks to get his shot – leaving me with a clear view of the finish. Mark Cavendish lights it up but went too early, leaving Andre Greipel to take the win.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.