South Scotland

Tour of Britain: Jedburgh to Dumfries in sun and rain

Bradley Wiggins and Bernie Eisel in Jedburgh
Image caption Crowds turned out in large numbers across the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway to see Bradley Wiggins and the rest of the Tour of Britain's field of elite cyclists

For the past few weeks, we have all been transformed.

The postman heading from door-to-door to deliver the mail was actually setting the pace for the peleton.

The boy flying by on his bike trying not to be late for school has been Mark Cavendish sprinting down the Champs Elysee.

And every worker on what might have looked like the humdrum morning ride to the office was, in fact, Bradley Wiggins blazing a trail in a time trial.

From cluttered garages across southern Scotland, the cobwebs have been cleaned from our battered old bicycles.

And, with the deepest of breaths, we have tried to squeeze back into the cycling top we last donned a lifetime ago.

That is what happens when a place gets Tour of Britain fever.

What has sometimes been a slow-burner event in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway in recent years was ignited by the confirmation of Wiggins' participation this time around.

A Tour de France winner and multi-Olympic gold medallist can have that effect.

The ranks of the hardened cycling tifosi have been swelled by those bitten by the bug of Wiggo's yellow jersey and the bike heroics of London 2012.

It ensured huge crowds along the route of the Tour of Britain's third stage - the only one in Scotland - from Jedburgh to Dumfries.

And what a unique bunch cycling fans are.

They are willing to wait for hours on streets, hillsides and intermediate sprints just for a glimpse of their heroes.

They often brave the most miserable conditions to see the team leaders and domestiques go flashing by.

Their reward, sometimes, is over in a matter of seconds.

But the upside can be a level of engagement with the action that few other sports can match.

It is absolutely free to spectate and you can get so close to your heroes that you actually feel like you could reach out and touch them.

Sometimes, on difficult stretches, you can literally push them up a mountain.

From Jedburgh town centre to the Whitesands in Dumfries, and at numerous points in between, crowds gathered to get their taste of that experience.

Judging by the noise they made, they felt that it was worth it.

Image caption Young fans gathered in Jedburgh to see some of the country's sporting heroes

The weather was traditional Scottish September fare - switching from heavy downpour to glorious sunshine in the blink of an eye.

Fans took shelter where they could, then peeled off their protective layers when they were bathed in light again.

Throughout it all, expectation levels rose at the finish line as a giant screen relayed stunning images of the local countryside.

A breakaway group led the peleton along the Whitesands on their first sweep through town but they were not going to spoil the Team Sky party this time.

Wiggins took control of proceedings on a loop through New Abbey, Beeswing and Cargenbridge and the crowd roared its approval.

Two brave riders were caught as the field rushed into Dumfries for the second time and from there on in there was only going to be one winner.

Everything went according to plan for Cavendish at the third time of asking in this Tour and he did what he does best - powered away from the pack.

The Scottish supporters gave him a huge cheer.

The presentation ceremony was a hurried affair as the skies threatened to open once again and new race leader Leigh Howard was quick to don the Gold Jersey.

Then the downpour began and the crowd dispersed with a speed even the Manx Missile would have been proud of.

It was a soggy way to end the day but the memories of seeing some of cycling's superstars will be special nonetheless.

And, who knows, they might help inspire some south of Scotland schoolboy to become the next Wiggins or Cavendish in years to come.

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