I watched the first group of amateur riders (in the "100" race) going past from the comfort of my sitting room at about 10:05am. At about 10:45am they began coming thick and fast, so I went down to the roadside and snapped away. I chatted to a few volunteers who stood at the side of the road shouting "Gel!" with white-gloved hands dangling mojito-flavoured gel packets. Most of the gel was either missed completely or flew in the air and then to the ground as the rider tried to grab it. There were a few more gel-providers further along the road, so they had the chance to try again. Occasionally the riders would actually get the gel successfully first time. Whatever the result, there was always a "thanks" or "no thanks!" or some other pleasant words exchanged (and the occasional "shit!" if they dropped or missed the gel). Even after 95 miles, the cyclists were still polite and smiling.
Later on we took the dog out for a walk, the riders still streaming past at a steady pace. There were 20,000 or so competitors, so it was likely to go on for a good few hours with their varying pace. Many drivers had failed to notice the extensive early-warnings about the event and had taken to the roads, forced to turn around as there was no way to get to the other side of the New King's Road until 7:15pm (other than by tube or train or on foot).
The cafés along the New King's Road were full of locals (who knew not to try to escape by car) enjoying the view. People waited for friends and loved-ones to come past. Teams streaked past together. Everyone was taking photos.
Eventually all the amateur riders had gone, but for the odd straggler. Towards 5:30pm, spectators started coming back out onto the New King's Road again, awaiting the "Classic" race riders (150 elite, professionals). I found a spot in the middle of the road and waited. Endless police bikes raced past, warning us that the cyclists would soon be there. Standing in the middle of the road, protected only by a couple of feeble bollards, I felt a little vulnerable, but it was the spot with the best view (and no-one wanted to crash into me!).
The riders didn't get there until about 5:55pm, in a small number of groups. I completely missed the two front riders, focusing on the peloton, which consisted of over 100 riders. Huge numbers of support vehicles followed each group, stacked with spare bicycles.
Five minutes later three more riders passed by (preceded by more police bikes with screeching sirens), followed by the last small group a couple of minutes after that.
The crowds quickly dispersed, although a few of us hung around wondering if that was it. It was. I'd somehow expected more, but it was only 150 in total (I had to phone my husband to find out how many competitors there were, as it didn't seem that many). I said goodbye to my gel crew and security friends and headed home. It was an amazing event and I'm sure hundreds of thousands of pounds will have been raised for charities. Huge congratulations to all who took part.
For more information about the race, please visit the official website.
The photos above (and more!) are available for purchase on my photography website as prints and personal downloads, with individuals tagged by race number, if visible (if you search by race number any related image will be found).