Village in carnival mood as Tour flashes by: Up to 1 million people watched the second UK stage of the Tour de France. Martin Whitfield reports from the route

RACE DAY started early for the villagers of Rowland's Castle in Hampshire even though the Tour de France was not due until 3pm.

'I was up at six starting the food, making the sausage rolls,' said Doris May, 78, who was expecting 15 members of her family to watch the race from her garden.

By 8.30am, Sean Warren had parked his ice-cream van in the required spot, the Castle Inn had been decorated with balloons and flags and the team of 29 marshals had begun to arrive.

The first barbeque smoke started rising at the Robin Hood pub at 10.30am, by which time stalls from the Guide Dogs for the Blind and Sue Ryder had been set up on the village green. Ian Calderwood, from Kingston upon Thames, sat alone as a spectator after cycling from Brighton. 'I was at the finish yesterday,' he said. 'And I wanted a different atmosphere.'

With three hours still to go, the best spots on the common had been occupied. Mr Calderwood was no longer alone. The United Reformed Church was doing a roaring trade in home-made refreshments, and a party was in full swing in the garden of a house overlooking the sprint finish.

Shortly before 12.45pm - when the road was closed to all but Tour participants - a coach carrying staff members of AGF Insurance, the Tour's insurers, arrived at the corporate hospitality spot at the Robin Hood. Some set out from Manchester as early as 5am.

At 1.45pm, the first vehicle in the Tour's cavalcade was spotted and the honking of horns and waving of flags begain. Spanish language students from a study centre in Chichester hoisted a banner proclaiming their hero, Miguel Indurain. Giant fruits, chocolates and assorted French advertisers were cheered as they passed. Even the press cars were waved at.

At 2.30pm, race officials forced the departure of the official T-shirt sales team with shouts of 'Allez, Allez'. Trade was still good but

the riders were catching up fast.

2.45pm: A four-man breakaway sprinted through the village. The race had arrived.

2.46pm: The pack of 180 riders streamed past in a couple of

minutes.

2.50pm: A car with a loudspeaker and a French accent said 'Thank you all in England. The Tour de France. Goodbye.'

'It was a bit quick,' said Robert Henham, 66, a retired wine merchant. 'But the crowd made it. The atmosphere is wonderful. All the neighbours are together. Only the floods (earlier this year) and the Tour de France have done that'.

(Photograph omitted)

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