John Herety: I've never seen support like that for a road race

View from the guest car
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The Independent Online

I've been involved in cycling all my life and I think the thing that impacted on me the most as I was driving along the length of the course just behind the riders was the scale of the crowds and the huge support they gave.

It's not just me who thinks that. [All-time cycling great] Eddy Merckx was here in a guest car too, and he said the same. So did the three officials from the UCI [cycling's governing body] who I was driving in my guest car. They were just gobsmacked. They said they've never seen so many people on the roadsides for a bike race anywhere in the world.

The overall numbers easily must have run into seven figures. The start was really the most impressive – 10 o'clock in the morning and the minute you got off The Mall you had crowds 10 deep. It was pretty early to be on Box Hill also. I just don't know how they even got there, given there's no car parks around that area. They must have walked for miles to be able to watch the race. And credit to them all, for as far as I could see, they all stood back from the roadside. We had no nutters running alongside the riders like they do in the Tour de France.

There were so many people that it actually created a problem: the riders had nowhere to stop for a "natural break" [pee]. Finally after about 15 miles there was a very short stretch of empty lane, which was just as well. There were thousands of Union flags, and hundreds of posters, but a couple stuck in my mind. One was of the five Olympic rings with each British rider's face from the team drawn inside each ring, and that was right next to a huge poster of Mark Cavendish [nicknamed the Manx Missile] riding on top of a missile.

But it was the sheer numbers of people that really impressed me the most. That was something very special.

'John Herety' is a former GB road manager, manager of the Rapha Condor team, and driving a guest car on the Olympic road race