RUSSELL HAMPTON: The Tour de France riders will never forget their time in England

The two breakaway riders from stage three, Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau, sweep through Chelmsford

The two breakaway riders from stage three, Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau, sweep through Chelmsford

First published in Sport

BASILDON professional cyclist Russell Hampton was at Roxwell yesterday to watch the Tour thread through roads he knows like the back of the hand. Having raced with and against some of the riders in this year’s race, Hampton is well placed to give his view on yesterday’s stage.

THE riders in this year’s Tour de France will remember yesterday’s stage – and all of this year’s stages in England – for the rest of their lives.

I’ve been to watch stages of the Tour in France but never have I seen support like the British public have shown the riders here.

I think everyone was a little bit worried about what support there would be for the stage through Essex yesterday.

The Yorkshire stages were fantastic and received a lot of media coverage, while this stage, in comparison, hadn’t.

But we needn’t of worried because the support was amazing.

That’s one thing about this country, we might not be the best at sport, but we like to come out and support big events.

I wasn’t able to watch the Olympic road race in 2012 because I was racing myself, but I imagine the atmosphere yesterday was very similar.

In Roxwell yesterday it was a good old British event, there was a mixture of people from the young to the old and from those who knew a lot about cycling to those who didn’t.

And that’s the greatest thing about our sport. At a football match, all you get inside the stadium are football supporters, in cycling the world is our stadium so anyone can come and watch us.

As for the race, it went as expected with Marcel Kittel winning the spring on The Mall.

I think Kittel is the best sprinter in the world at the moment and even has the measure of Mark Cavendish.

It was sad to see Mark crash out of the race on Saturday but I think he would have found it hard to beat Kittel. I think the German could win up to five stages of this year’s Tour.

Jan Barta and Jean-Marc Bideau did very well to stay in the break so long and I was surprised they weren’t let off the leash a bit more given there was only two of them in the break, but Barta put in a great ride to stay out there until the final six kilometres.

I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the Tour on television now as it heads back to France and the general classification fight is fascinating already and we are only three days in.

I think everyone was caught by suprise a bit by Sunday’s stage in Yorkshire. The top 20 finishers on that day will probably be the top 20 on the GC at the end of the Tour.

Normally, the race goes all around France and doesn’t really break up until it his the mountains.

So for such a selection to happen on just the second stage on Yorkshire roads is amazing.

I still can’t look past Chris Froome to take the overall win.

Alberto Contador may get the better of him on one or two occassions but I expect Froome to win the overall battle. He has the stronger team and I think that’s what it will come down to.

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