The Tour de France will arrive in London today, with the climax of stage three taking the world’s biggest annual sporting event past Buckingham Palace and up the Mall to the finish line.
It is the same iconic backdrop that was used for the end of the road cycling races at the 2012 Olympics, and space from which to catch a glimpse of the final sprint will be at a premium.
But with the full stage spanning 155km (96 miles) from Cambridge to the capital via parts of Essex, there will be plenty of other spots along the way where the view could actually be even better.
The Tour’s general director Christian Prudhomme said at least 2.5 million people have turned out so far to watch the teams’ spectacular climbs over the Yorkshire moors, through city streets and country lanes in what he called “the grandest Grand Depart ever”.
By comparison the London leg will be a flat affair, with the highest point on the route just 108m at Epping Forest.
It should make for a quick race and a good day for the sprinters, though British cycling fans will have to be content to do without Mark Cavendish after he bowed out of the race in a spectacular crash in Harrogate on Saturday.
The final section of the race will see the top cyclists make it in from Canary Wharf to the Mall in around 12 minutes – no mean feat just before rush-hour – passing many famous London landmarks on the way.
Gary MacGowan, Transport for London’s planning chief for major road events and the man who designed the course, said that while anyone local to the route would be best to catch it as close to home as possible, there were a few highlights he could recommend.
He told the Evening Standard: “For the best views you can follow the Central line on the Tube that will take you to sites in Redbridge and Waltham Forest within walking distance of the route. All those places on the Lea Bridge road will look fantastic.
“City airport will also be fantastic and the Royal Docks. Excel is also a good bet - you go to Greenwich and come across on the Emirates Airline with a great view.
“Aspen Way in Canary Wharf I’d also recommend as riders will be on the elevated section. The race will get there about 3.30pm. We expect a finish at the Mall at 3.40pm-4pm depending on how fast the riders are going for the full stage. The forecast is for a fast race as it is flat the whole way. Watch it locally because that involves the shortest journey.”
As well as watching along the route, spectators can see all the action on giant screens at three “fan parks” in Trafalgar Square, Green Park and the Olympic Park. These will include food and drink stalls, interactive cycling activities, an outdoor cinema and live music.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “As the world's largest annual sporting event prepares to make a triumphant return to our city, London is geared up and raring to go.
“After months of meticulous planning we are set to deliver a sporting spectacle that will be beamed to an audience of billions across the globe, showcasing some of our finest landmarks and most picturesque views.
“I wish every rider taking part in this gruelling endeavour the best of luck - I'm sure they will no doubt inspire even more Londoners to take to two wheels. Chapeau!”
Estimated arrival times for the Caravan* and the fastest cyclists can be found in the tables below:
Key race locations
Epping Forest (The Sprint)
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
West Ham Lane
Tower of London
Houses of Parliament
The Mall (The Finish)
*Ahead of the actual race, spectators can enjoy the Tour's Publicity Caravan - a convoy of floats, vehicles and entertainers who travel ahead of the race handing out promotional goodies.