On Tuesday, a few lucky Cheshire towns painted old bikes, waved flags and lined the roadsides as this year’s fabulous Tour of Britain roared through the county.
For just shy of an hour, about the time it takes to complete a washing machine cycle, people gathered at various strategic points along the route of stage three of the annual cycling competition.
This was spin class with a difference.
For such dedication – straining necks, checking updates on mobile phones and listening to the roar of police motorbikes that led the imminent charge – those gathered enjoyed just a few joyous moments.
But it was worth it. This was pro-cycling that certainly deserved a few precious moments of our day.
Gleaming machines, multi-coloured outfits, steely eyes and the whiff of determination intoxicated the masses that were left in the peloton’s wake.
The big-name riders that graced Olympic tracks just a few weeks earlier came and disappeared in a flash, and those who blinked might have missed Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish or ultimate stage winner, Ian Stannard.
And yet few complained. The sheer pace sustained by the cyclists was incredible. The bunched pack a sight to behold as it weaved, swayed and bobbled along the roads that many grumble about each day.
I trawled the Crewe section of the race to chat with eager spectators who had started to take up positions from 10.30am, a good hour before the riders were due to grace the station area, Nantwich Road and beyond.
They came for numerous reasons; from enthusiasts’ desire to see heroes in the making, to average Joe riders who wanted to witness professionals in action, and simple curiosity from many who didn’t want to miss the party – whatever it was about.
Cameras clicked, phones recorded and one cheeky punter slipped onto the road and managed to ride a few minutes ahead of the action – to the delight of the gathered crowd.
There was criticism, and I’m sure motorists sat in stuffy cars and forced to wait behind barriers weren’t too happy. That’s life. The event was well publicised. It was a one-off, something to set tongues wagging and allow normal folk access to sportsmen otherwise only accessible on TV screens.
The Tour of Britain won’t change habits, encourage millions to cycle or generate wealth for many businesses along the route. But it was an experience many will remember fondly, even if it didn’t last very long.
We need things to lift the mood occasionally, get school kids chattering, work colleagues debating the pros and cons, and of course see opinions exchanged in bars and cafes. You’ll never please all of the people all of the time.
Me, well, I thought it was a stunning example of how communities pull together, get behind an idea and enjoy a few moments together – shouting, screaming and clapping to show their support for magnificent men of cycling machines.
It certainly beats watching the washing!