Thursday 10 July 2014

Le Tour de Yorkshire....

Yellow bikes were all over the place....
    Last weekend was rather special insomuch as our beautiful Yorkshire countryside was beamed around the world on the occasion of Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France. A conservative estimate of 2.5 million spectators lined the route, the cheering was deafening, the atmosphere electric. It brought goose pimples to the 198 cyclists riding the gauntlet of the vociferous  crowds. The reigning Tour de France champion, Chris Froome, said he'd never known anything like it. And neither have I. It was carnival time on a grand scale and I cannot recall any other event in my lifetime that brought so many people out onto the roads, towns and villages of God's own county.
      Away from the main razzmatazz, Royalty and Red Arrows I watched it from a quieter spot 50km into the race, at Threshfield in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales
They've gone...
where the enthusiastic crowd was equally noisy as the pre-race caravan came speeding past with horns blaring, lights flashing and occupants of open floats throwing souvenirs and sweets to anyone lucky enough to catch them. I stood among people from London, Cornwall and Edinburgh, hundreds of miles away, but the main viewing points boasted visitors from France, New Zealand, America, Spain, Australia, India - and goodness knows how many other countries. Such is the global popularity of Le Tour. It would be wonderful if the same sense of community and camaraderie experienced in Yorkshire throughout the weekend could be replicated throughout the world - on a permanent basis.
The peloton speeding into Threshfield...
       In the tiny village of Threshfield residents had begun taping off strategic viewpoints, arranging chairs, hanging flags and blowing up balloons as early as 6am - though the peloton wasn't due to pass through for another seven hours. People I know had champagne, choice sandwiches and other mouth-watering goodies all lined up in readiness to celebrate the occasion in the best possible style. The irony of it was that the "occasion" (in inverted commas) lasted all of 40 seconds as the peloton sped past in a rush of wind and roar of tyres accompanied by police outriders, back-up vehicles with racks of cycles aloft and the noisy clattering of five helicopters casting their shadows over the proceedings. It had all happened so quickly there was plenty of champagne left for me (thanks Sue) to accompany the dainty salmon sandwiches I'd worked up quite an appetite for since breakfast six hours previously.
       After the peloton had passed most people rushed a mile or so down the road
Watching Le Tour on the big screen - during a boring commercial!
to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre in Grassington to watch the remainder of the race being televised by ITV4 on a large screen before hundreds of viewers reclining on a grassy bank in warm sunshine (my forehead got sunburnt). It was spoilt by two things. Firstly the number of commercial breaks interrupting our viewing when riders were passing through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Shame on you, ITV4.  Secondly, the closing stage of the race when Britain's star sprinter, Mark Cavendish, made a tactical error, caught the wheel of Australia's Simon Gerrans and went crashing to the ground 200m from the Finish, damaging his shoulder and effectively eliminating himself from any further stages of the race. It was a sad ending to an otherwise unforgettable day. Taking advantage of Mark's mistake the German, Marcel Kittel of Giant-Shimano team, raced over the line in Harrogate to win the first stage and take the coveted yellow jersey.
Back to normal - an eight mile run over Grassington Moor....
So that was that, so far as our little corner of Yorkshire was concerned. Le Tour had been and gone and come Sunday everything was pretty much back to normal again. After Saturday's crowds it felt wonderful to be running in the sweet solitude of Grassington Moor with nothing but a soughing wind and plaintive calls of golden plovers to break the silence. In racing days the hills were my stage, the sun my spotlight, and I was the star, determined to outshine my contemporaries. And mostly I did, but sadly, like Le Tour, it all seems to have flashed by in a rush of wind leaving nothing but memories. Ah well, I can still dream.....


  1. Sport can bring out the best of feeling in people and I agree with you "It would be wonderful if the same sense of community and camaraderie experienced in Yorkshire throughout the weekend could be replicated throughout the world - on a permanent basis.". All we can do is each try in our own small way.

    I was able to watch some of the race on TV and Yorkshire you should be proud.

    Liked your report of the great event and your pictures are so nice to look at.

    Take Care and ....

    All the best Jan

    1. Hi Jan, sport can sometimes bring out the worst in people too - which is why there are almost as many police on duty as spectators when Huddersfield are playing Leeds! But Le Tour really was something special when the world and his wife were all friends in the nicest possible way....

  2. Watch it on TV and couldn't believe the crowds, one day I hope to see the tour in real life!

    1. We get massive crowds here for street parties - for royal weddings and anniversaries - but nothing to match the Tour de France when crowds were boosted with visitors from all over the world. In all my 82 years I've never seen anything like it....

  3. I also watched on TV with my husband, but didn't realise at the time that it was YOUR part of the world! Fantastic!

    1. Hi Karien, we who live here refer to Yorkshire as 'God's own county' and maybe people will understand why after the world has seen how beautiful it is. I can't get enough of it.....