Tour de France 2014: Tower Hamlets braves rain for world’s biggest race
PUBLISHED: 18:05 07 July 2014 | UPDATED: 21:58 07 July 2014
Hundreds lined the streets in Tower Hamlets today to watch the Tour de France, the largest bicycle race in the world, as it took the nation’s capital by storm.
Residents of all backgrounds, young and old, whooped and cheered as more than 200 cyclists zipped by on their way to the Mall in central London.
The streets began filling up around lunchtime ahead of the race reaching Tower Hamlets, coming down from Canning Town to Blackwall and past Canary Wharf for Tower Hill and the City.
Spectators thronged the Highway just a stone’s throw from the iconic Cable Street mural to stake out the ideal spot from which to view the famous race.
Floats and cars from the event’s sponsors and crew sped by before the bikes arrived, throwing sweets and gifts to the crowds.
Rain broke out during the exciting wait for the race to arrive after starting and stopping between periods of warm sunshine.
But the people waiting for the race were not fazed, sheltering under a sea of umbrellas with their camera-phones aimed and ready for their moment.
The atmosphere was electric as the stream of cyclists flew by in a blur of colour and wheels.
Zulfqar Ali, who lives in Whitechapel, is a veteran of the Tour, having watched previous races in the Champs Elysee in Paris and in the French Alps.
“I saw the Tour in France a few times, and it’s great that it’s in the UK, so I wanted to be here,” he said. “It’s a different experience.”
“Today was a lovely day. We had a picnic, listened to French music, drank some wine - it’s French wine, but with English cheese!”
Roads were closed across the borough to allow for the race to go ahead, with hundreds of stewards in high-visibility vests directing traffic and ensuring the event ran smoothly.
Mr and Mrs Smith, who preferred not to give their first names, came down from Northampton especially to see the race.
“It was here and gone,” said Mrs Smith. “It just happened so quick, but it was great. It was really worth coming.
“And there was a really good atmosphere. The crowd were very enthusiastic.”
The Tour de France is the world’s largest sporting event, covering about 3,500km and with around 3.5billion people watching on television in 190 countries across the globe.