It seemed that I was the only Wheeler going to watch the race when it was in Devon. The weather forecast wasn’t that bad, but there you go. I travelled up to Barnstaple on the train via Exeter, arriving at about 11.30. I headed along the fairly flat roads to Braunton, aiming eventually for Challacombe Hill above Woolacombe Bay. In Braunton it started raining, the local signposting wasn’t that helpful and nobody there had heard of Challacombe Hill! Finally at a garage someone had heard of it and advised taking some back lanes as a short cut, aiming for a village called Georgeham.
That short cut was certainly shorter but very hilly and again devoid of signposts to anywhere that I had heard of! Various lefts and rights roughly in the direction I hoped to be going brought me to Georgeham. The local Post Office (a village post office still open!) were very helpful and told me that I was just near the top of Challacombe Hill – result!
I arrived at the hill and rode down to find a good vantage point. By now it was getting very crowded, although no problem, but the rain persisted. I was an hour or so early but was able to join the conversation with many other cyclists – the hour soon passed. Word was around that the Tour was on its way and then the ‘caravan’ came up the hill: were there as many police and other motorcyclists as tour riders? Just then the rain stopped! Scott Davies appeared first with some of the breakaway group including Hugh Carthy and Erik Rowsell. Quite a while later up came Geraint Thomas and then Andre Greipel. This hill certainly challenged them and they were really spread out.
I have attached a couple of pictures and I hope some more will appear in the Photo Gallery.
I headed back down on the ‘official’ route via Croyde, but was stopped as were many other cyclists near Braunton. There had been an accident, when one of the riders had ridden into the back of a support vehicle and had to be ambulanced to Bristol with head injuries. I arrived back in Barnstaple and the train soon arrived, but there was time to visit the station café to grab some grub. A good day out and well worth the effort. R753