Stage 3 started in Antwerp, Belgium and promised a spectacular hilltop finish on the Mur de Huy.
With that in mind, I calculated that three spots would be the maximum I could hit and still make the finish with enough time to get a good position.
Unfortunately, the riders were running late. However, the crowd didn't seem to mind too much, as the publicity caravan went into overdrive - handing out a mountain of freebies.
The sign-on area had a yellow carpet running down the road, giving the riders and spectators a golden glow in the bright sunshine.
I ‘stumbled’ upon a technical presentation around one of the new products being rolled out at the Tour. However, as I innocuously leaned in to get a closer look (read: tried to take some sneaky shots), a black card was put in front of my camera and I was sternly told ‘no pictures’. Buy me a couple of delicious Belgian beers and I’ll tell you more…
I moved on and spotted the gleaming green machine of Andre Greipel – definitely worth a shot.
As more and more buses started to arrive there was a commotion kicking up near the MTN Qhubeka area. It seemed like they had a rather large cheer squad on the ground here in Belgium. Good for cycling!
Getting away early to find our first location we headed to a little town called Lier. With its cobbled streets and town square it looked great on my google map research.
However, when we arrived the town was bustling with people and there was nowhere we could stop. There are strict rules about driving on the course and going backwards is near impossible.
Out of options, and quietly cursing under my breath, we shot through and looked for an alternative spot (walking back from where we found the first lot of parking was going to cost us precious time we didn’t have).
The next section of road was flat and dead straight. I hadn’t researched this section, so I could only cross my fingers that we would find something before we hit the bail-out point at the A2.
As the bail-out point came into sight we got lucky, spotting a built-up overpass/tunnel that was already becoming a bit of a hub for spectators.
I tried the get a shot from the top of the tunnel but a Gendarmerie officer gave me the move along.
After the riders had passed, we quickly got back into the car and looked to make our exit. This proved to be quite a challenge with the road already engulfed by the crowd.
Using the horn as politely as possible we weaved our way to a side street and escaped.
Back on the open road, we swiftly made our way to Huy, fuelled by couple of biscuits and peanut butter.
As we arrived at the press parking we bumped into Robbie McEwan, who filled us in on the details of the crash. He told us that the race had been neutralised. We headed for the finish to see what was happening on the live screens – with around 45kms to go.
The organisers had erected two sets of stairs for press. By sheer luck the top step was free so I went and claimed my spot. The elevated position gave a great view down the hill and I could see the helmet of Joaquin Rodriguez coming into view followed closely by Chris Froome.
Snapping away I was keen to get down quickly and capture some close-up shots as the rest of the peloton came across the line.
Squeezing past a couple of enormous telephoto lenses that were happily shooting away from their spots I got back down into the action just in time to see the riders from the earlier crash make it to the line.
It was carnage. There were grazes and lacerations everywhere, kits torn to shreds and helmets scratched.
I became preoccupied with documenting all the different war wounds and totally missed the jersey presentations.
There will to be some rather sore bodies tomorrow, just in time for the cobbles.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.