Large crowds thronged the streets of Hackney and Tower Hamlets on Monday as the Tour de France passed through the East End on the last of its three days in England.
Excited residents, ranging from school children to senior citizens, braced the rainy conditions to show their support, sounding out cheers of encouragement as the world’s elite cyclists whizzed past.
The cyclists, who had started out earlier in Cambridge were on the 96-mile third stage which climaxed in the finish in the Mall during the late afternoon.
Some enthusiasts, such as Helen Wilson, a police officer from Havering, camped themselves into strategic viewing positions near Tower Hill, hours in advance, fully aware that their efforts would only be rewarded with a brief glimpse of their cycling heroes.
“I have been here for two hours already and they will pass by in 20 seconds, but it is definitely worth the wait,” said the 43-year old. “It’s because of the British cyclists’ success that the Tour has come here so people should support them.”
Boris Johnson also heralded the event, confident that it will inspire the next generation of Chris Froomes as British cycling enthusiasm reaches “fever pitch.”
The deputy head of St Peter’s Primary School in Wapping, Claire Stewart, 40, shares the Mayor’s confidence and brought some of her eager pupils to watch the Tour pass through Wapping.
“We take our children to events such as the Tour de France as it’s important for them to have those sorts of aspirations,” she said. “They had no idea what to expect so it’s been an eye-opening experience for them.”
The event was even welcomed by two French fans living in Poplar, although they would prefer the Tour remained in France to “keep with tradition.” Despite this reservation, Antony Bartet, 21 and Flora Encelin, 20, were happy to see the Tour.
“In France, we always go with our fathers, so it’s good for us that it came to London this year,” Encelin said.
German Marcel Kittel was the first to cross the finish line at the Mall, adding to his victory at the first stage of the 2,277-mile race that began in Leeds on Saturday.
The elite cyclists left the UK late on Monday to return to France to continue the 101st Tour, which will conclude in Paris on 27 July.