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Whizzing round the West End at Tour of Britain with Chain Reaction

We spent a lap in a guest car at the race finale in London - and boy, was it fast

The final stage of this year’s Aviva Tour of Britain took place on a brand new circuit in London’s West End – and thanks to Chain Reaction Cycles, sponsor of the points jersey, we got to see what a lap of it was like first-hand. And it was fast.

Major bike races use guest cars – in the Tour of Britain’s case, supplied by Skoda, who also sponsor the mountains competition – to enable sponsors to give their guests a close-up view of the race.

And unlike a point-to-point stage, the nature of one based on a circuit means more people can experience that, and we were lucky enough to be offered a seat for a lap.

Arriving at the designated point, just by the final right-hand bend 300 metres from the finish, just as the race got underway, our slot was for the third lap, with the two cars operating a one-lap on, one-lap off timetable to enable passengers to be switched.

After the peloton and support vehicles have passed, we’re off and tucked in behind a Vittoria neutral service vehicle, passing under the finish arch and through Piccadilly Circus to Regent Street.

The Y-shaped course centred on Trafalgar Square means that unusually, there are three opportunities to see the race head in the opposite direction, and to the evident delight of the big crowds it’s Sir Bradley Wiggins pulling at the front as the riders head back down Re/node/add/featuregent Street.

He and the rest of Team Wiggins are looking to get points classification leader Owain Doull the crucial bonus seconds at the day’s first sprint that will move the Welsh rider onto the podium – and they manage it.

The course design also means there are some tight hairpin bends, which causes a concertina effect as the team cars and other vehicles negotiate them – and that means that once back onto a straight section, it’s pedal to the metal for the driver as the race regroups.

It’s by no means the fastest the driver has gone during this year’s race – the speed he confides he hit the previous day as the race headed across an RAF base’s runway takes that prize – but it’s the quickest I’ve ever gone through the West End.

Through Trafalgar Square and along the Strand, we see the peloton again as it returns from the direction of Aldwych, Team Wiggins still at the front; we’ll see them again coming up Whitehall as we prepare to turn at Parliament Square.

Back through Trafalgar Square for the third and final time, where Eritrerean flags are very much in evidence in support of MTN-Qhubeka’s Daniel Teklehaimanot, we pull in where we started around 7 minutes after we started, a thrilling ride over.

I grew up in London, spent more than half my life there, and still visit regularly. If I’m in the West End, I’m most likely to be taking it easy on foot, or on the bike.

So to see it from this breathless perspective was an eye-opener – and, given the crowds and the backdrop, one that makes you appreciate why, like the Tour de France and the Vuelta, a circuit finish in the nation’s capital is perhaps the ideal way to end a national stage race, and certainly one the riders relish.

With thanks to Chain Reaction - who were based in the spectacular setting of Trafalgar Square for the day.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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ashfanman | 8 years ago

"It’s by no means the fastest the driver has gone during this year’s race – the speed he confides he hit the previous day as the race headed across an RAF base’s runway takes that prize"

I was in one of the guest cars that day. We hit 120mph down the runway and would have gone faster if it wasn't for the car in front bottling it and breaking too early.

But that was FAR less terrifying than doing over 60mph down narrow lanes packed with spectators through Ipswich town centre. We were backed up behind the police bikes, as they were scared of going too fast on the wet cobbles, but then had the race director's car honking the horn right behind and shouting at us over the commissaire's radio to "press press press!" as the peleton was catching us. Tense.

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