The Tour de France - hours of build up for just thirty seconds fun. Story of my life but fantastic news for pubs.


Cycling. I’m not very good at it, but I do enjoy doing it.

There’s no doubt, however, that cycling fever has gripped the UK following the amazing crowds that graced the start of the Tour de France, setting out in Yorkshire and working its way south to Cambridge and on to London. Everywhere you look at the moment it seems that somebody’s on a bike, and each bike looks newer, posher and lighter than the last one I saw.

Men are less embarrassed to be seen in lycra and groups can be seen clogging up lanes, riding two, three and even four abreast, much to the chagrin of road tax paying motorists.

Even so, I get out on my bike as often as possible and enjoy the experience.

It was great this weekend, however, to see so many pubs making the most of the Tour de France being near them but I’d like to say a special thank you to the Old Red Lion Inn in Horseheath.

Planning to cycle to watch the Cambridge to London stage with a couple of mates, we were trying to work out a route that fit all of our abilities and distances. Finchingfield had been designated an official viewing spot and Horseheath is halfway between there and my home.

Ian Holt, licensee of the Old Red Lion Inn, and I are on the BII council for the East of England together so I gave him a call and asked if I could be cheeky and park my car at his pub for the day while we rode to watch the main event.

Rather than just saying yes, Ian invited my friends and I to join his pub’s peloton, heading out at nine o’clock on Monday morning to arrive in Finchingfield nice and early to get a spot before the riders came through shortly after 1pm.

The route might have been shorter than we’d been planning, but Ian offered a location I could get to with the car without getting ensnared in the road closures surrounding Cambridge and riding in a larger group on roads I’d never cycled before was fantastic fun.

There are very few professional, international sporting events you can attend these days for free, but our only costs for watching the world’s best cyclists blast by were £2.00 to park each bike in a secure area and the cost of a much deserved sausage sandwich and a cup of tea.

The atmosphere was amazing, the large crowds in fine spirits, and Le Tour did a great job of building up the fans’ anticipation and excitement with the preceding caravan of goodies.

Then it was time for the riders. As is the story of my life, it was hours of build up for something that lasted just thirty seconds, but what a fantastic sight. The location, on a corner and over a narrow bridge, slowed the riders and stretched the peloton out a bit, giving a great view, and once it was over we headed back to the bikes.

Scooting off ahead of the rest of the pack, it became obvious that the three of us didn’t actually know the area when we realised we didn’t recognise buildings we clearly hadn’t passed on the ride in. Our new route added several miles and enough time that we ended up being one of the last of the group back to Ian’s pub, but other local cycling clubs had also made their own way back to the Old Red Lion and a fantastic barbecue and great beer were on offer, as the closing kilometres of the day’s stage were shown on the pub’s big screen for us cycling fans.

So thank you to Ian and his team for the impromptu invite to join them on Monday, and well done to all the other pubs that got in to the spirit of the Tour de France; I hope you had a fantastic weekend.