On July 8 2007 an estimated two million people lined the roads from Trafalgar Square to Canterbury to watch the Tour de France. It was the biggest peacetime mobilization ever seen in the Garden of England and the most dramatic event to hit Kent since the hurricane of 1987. It could have bombed. The author, who covered the race as the sports editor of the Kent Messenger, watched on in disbelief as a stage of the 2006 Tour of Britain, widely seen as a dress rehearsal and held on the same roads, turned into a farce. The riders got lost in Chatham dockyards, went on strike and then abused and spat at the local favorite when he tried to win the stage. As the day of the race grew near Jeremy Clarkson-worshiping Kent residents were revolting about road closures and the local media were running stories about people being 'trapped in their homes'. To make matters worse a series of drug scandals had eroded public faith in the race, to the point that one sports editor was threatening to ignore the Tour completely. But against the odds the Tour's visit to Kent was a triumph.
The author followed the race from Trafalgar Square to the finish line on Rheims Way in Canterbury, in the company of Olympic bronze medal winning cyclist Ron Keeble. The race itself was packed with tension and drama, with Britain's David Millar attacking from the start, sprinting star Mark Cavendish riding the last ten miles in tears after crashing into a spectator and Australia's Robbie McEwen snatching a stunning victory just yards from the finish line. This book tells the story of this incredible day for the first time. It contains nearly 200 color pictures, many of them never seen before, the stunned reaction of the French media and the stories of local cyclists who flocked to the event. There are interviews with Millar, Cavendish, McEwen and Bradley Wiggins and the tale of a chance encounter with Ken Livingstone that nearly made the then Mayor of London vomit. Featuring the full story of how and why the Tour de France came to the garden of England, the scandals that threatened to derail the stage and the triumphant scenes when 2 million fans flocked to Kent's roads.
Reactions from fans, officials, the French press and star riders including Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, Mark Cavendish and Robbie McEwen. Review coverage in local press and radio; Over 200 full-color photographs of the race.
FRED ATKINS first watched the Tour de France as a 13 year old in 1986, little imagining that one day he would cover the race as Sports Editor of the Kent Messenger. Now, aged 35 with a wife, Wendy, and a 22-month old daughter, Sylvia, he is a freelance journalist working for the Associated Press and a number of local publications, including Kent on Sunday. The highlight of his career so far has been covering the Tour de France and it is because of this Tour de Kent: the day the world's greatest bike race came to the garden of England was written.