There was a chill in the air. The rain had set in and was getting heaver as we headed to the start of Stage 5.
The riders were rugged up and staying in the buses as long as possible. Meanwhile, spectators huddled beneath umbrellas patiently waiting for the riders to head to sign on. This stalemate continued for a while.
I caught Tony Martin in the yellow jersey before deciding it was time to head out on the course.
The first location was more of a climb than I’d expected, as it wasn’t categorised in the road book. The top of the road was lined with spectators looking out over the wheat fields. Dark skies completed the backdrop and made for a dramatic scene.
As the riders came past the peloton was already fractured, with a number of riders having been blown off the back.
Then I noticed the cuts and grazes.
There must have been a crash early on, which wasn’t surprising – the wind was getting stronger and the rain was heavy.
Getting back in the car there was no sign of the van marking the end of the race cavalcade. We waited and waited as the spectators started to pack their things and leave. Eventually, and running out of time, we took off – assuming we had missed them.
Halfway through the next town the van appeared in our mirrors, so we pulled over to let them past. There must have been abandonments from the crash for them to have been so far behind the rest of the procession.
The second location we had selected was in a wheat field. The landscape was undulating and the road made a nice snaking ‘s’ as it wound through the fields.
When the first rider came into view I was impressed that it was the same lone breakaway we had seen at the top of the first hill. It must have been tough out there in these conditions.
It wasn’t long before the peloton rolled into view, filling the road.
As I walked back to the car I found a MTN Qhubeka bidon by the roadside. I emptied the contents, thinking it might make a nice addition to the collection back home.
A lady saw me pick it up and looked a little disappointed. I tossed it across the road to her and her face lit up with excitement in acquiring a genuine souvenir.
The next location was a bonus as we hadn’t realised we would cross so close to the race route. There was just enough time to jump out of the car and run up to the road to catch the riders before continuing on.
Angelo Tulik from Europcar had a mechanical right in front of me. I got a couple of shots of the swift bike change that got him back in the peloton.
One more location then it was straight to the finish. We stopped just outside of a town called Combles.
The riders were in bunches now – meaning we had to wait to get back on the race course. We were going to have to be quick to make the finish ahead of the leaders.
Finally getting back on the race course behind the final riders, we needed to turn off at Poziéres before they did a loop up towards the Franco-British Memorial of Thiepva.
This seemed simple enough, except the road was completely blocked by a World War 1 tank, complete with soldiers in full period uniform holding Australian flags.
Unfortunately, I was in such a rush to try and recalculate the route that I didn’t have time to stop and take a photo.
Then things got serious – the dash to the finish in Amiens was the most stressful of the tour so far.
This was largely due to the fact that the main road was closed (due to the race), pushing all traffic to a secondary route that quickly became choked.
We did our level best to get back for the finish, racing towards the finish with the GPS now set giving us our approximate arrival time.
I checked the progress of the peloton with the Tour Tracker and we were neck-and-neck.
Coming into Amiens, with 1km to go, I checked again – the leaders were at 900m. They had sprinted away from us!
I desperately tried to make it to the finish to get some images of the the last riders coming through, or of the jeresy presentations, but the never-ending flow of spectators had me blocked in.
I squeezed through every gap I could find until I arrived at a fence – the final obstacle between me and the finishing area.
There was a security guard at the gate and I flashed my pass, leaning in, expecting to be ushered through. He stopped me in my tracks – it was a private function, not a press area. Just as I was about to start negotiating/begging, the winners were announced over the P.A and I knew the jig was up. Better luck tomorrow.