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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-30, 2007

The Tour en Angleterre - making the video

Traditional film crew fare of bacon and egg rolls washed down with strong tea
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

There's been plenty of hype surrounding the announcement of next year's Tour de France route - which is due to be announced today. The announcement in Paris will be accompanied by a promotional video produced by Transport London to help promote the Tour's start in Angleterre, and in particular its first visit to London in the event's 103-year history. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins talks of the video's production, and his starring role...

Later today, the Societe du Tour de France will present the 2007 route. Rumours abound that this, the first one entirely presided over by Christian Prudhomme, will feature a classical stage from yesteryear - like over Mont Ventoux to Carpentras, or a finish at the top of the mythical Puy de Dome. What is certain though, as it was announced long ago, is that the Prologue and Stage One will be in Britain - London and Kent, to be precise - for the first time in thirteen years.

Accompanying the presentation on today will be a video, created for the occasion by Transport of London, to celebrate the Tour's first visit to Britain's capital and to showcase its many attractions. Basically, the film - The Yellow Balloon - is based loosely on the 1950's French Classic Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon), and features the adventures of the eponymous inflatable around London's skyline and famous tourist attractions.

Poor bikes, stuck out in the rain
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

A small girl emerges from Westminster Tube Station carrying her yellow balloon, the dramatic sight of the Houses of Parliament cause her to lose her grip on the string and it drifts out of her reach. While the little girl and her family embark on a tour of the city, the balloon does its own sightseeing exploring such attractions as the South Bank, the Financial district, and the shops and theatres of the West End.

The film has a happy ending, but, just as the little girl is about to be reunited with her lost friend after their independent journeys, she hears a noise heading her way. She turns around to see the blaze of colour that is a peloton in full flight, it whooshes by trailing a shower of yellow balloons....

This is where I - and some of my amateur racing colleagues - come in.

Regent's Park in September
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

A general call was put out around the clubs in the London area for volunteers to play the part of the international peloton. This was too much to pass up, this was my big shot, when the guys in Hollywood see this... Well, maybe they're casting for the part of George Hincapie in the upcoming Jake Gyllenhaal movie about Lance Armstrong....

The morning didn't start too well for any of us. The unseasonably good weather we'd been having had given way to some of the heaviest rain I've seen for years. My dawn ride from Blackfriars Station, along the River Thames and up through the West End to Regent's Park involved riding through puddles that almost came up to my hubs, and basically soaking me to the skin.

The glamourous world of movies
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

I arrived at the Inner Circle of Regent's Park (that's a road, not a secret society) to find that the hopeful estimate of a hundred riders had mostly been put off by what I'd just ridden through and were still in their beds. Instead of around a hundred we numbered around twenty - and we were supposed to be posing as an entire peloton!

Eventually the rain stopped and we could get on with what we came to do - namely ride our bikes and look handsome for the cameras. The task consisted of riding round and round the Inner Circle in close formation crossing an imaginary finishing line in different ways to replicate a racing bunch. The major problem with this was that it had only recently stopped lashing with rain and the orange asphalt road surfaced was still covered in copious quantities of water which was flying up and adhering itself to everything and everyone that rode over it!

One of our riders was nominated as Maillot Jaune. He donned the golden fleece and was to cross the line first in a winning pose on every lap. The trouble with this - for him anyway - was that the one thing that we had to keep clean was his jersey, and so he had to ride on the front the whole time! Not that we weren't grateful...

British Cyclists
Photo ©: Ben Atkins
(Click for larger image)

Eventually, after filming us going by in different positions, from all sorts of different angles (including from behind, "Does my bum look big in this?"), the director had enough and called a wrap - or something. We were sent on our way with thanks and cups of coffee, all of us knowing that we'd be getting calls from major studios within the week. We'd done the easy bit, the hard part is yet to come.

I'm really looking forward to seeing London's promotional film this week, if they can transform twenty filthy, soaking wet British amateurs into a two hundred strong, shiny professional peloton my hat will really go off to them. However it turns out though, I already know that I've played my part in the Tour de France's first visit to my capital city.

The film just wouldn't be the same without me.


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Images by Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com