Well, the day had finally arrived that many of us cycling enthusiasts had dreamed about, we were going to get a chance to see the world’s greatest cyclists on our own doorstep.
The Tour de France has come to Yorkshire (Gods own country as any Yorkshire man will tell you, this is where I have to smile and just nod as I am a proud Lancastrian who has been “exiled” in Yorkshire for over 35 years).
“Le Grande Depart” took place in Leeds (with a quick stop off at Harewood House to “hob nob” with royalty and political hangers on) then the peloton made its way through the Yorkshire Dales finishing in the genteel spa town of Harrogate.
I awoke about 5.30.am and got ready to drive over to Skipton where I planned to watch the race. I left home at 7.00am and had a very uneventful journey to arrive at my destination just after 8.00am to meet up with my daughter and her family and a variety of her friends (thank you to David and Annette for the excellent hospitality, particularly the bacon butties!)
A group of 10 of us set off at 9.45 to walk to the viewing point on the road and found an excellent vantage point where we could see the riders coming at a distance.
By about 10.30 there must have been several hundred spectators and by 11.30 close on several thousand, the pub being particularly popular as it was serving food, coffee and beer.
I was particularly impressed with the two young “trainee Yorkshiremen” wearing yellow tour t-shirts and traditional flat caps high fiving the amateur riders as they went past.
I think that every amateur cyclist in the UK had headed for Yorkshire and there was a constant stream along the road, old, young (very young in some cases), male and female…all wanting to see the tour.
At around 12.15 we could hear and see the helicopters in the distance, which indicated the peloton was not that far away. Prior to the riders arriving you have the “caravan” of sponsors cars and assorted vehicles and in with this entourage was a vintage car driven by the Duke of Devonshire accompanied by his wife.
Finally at just after 1.00pm we heard the shouts from the crowd up ahead of us and suddenly saw the helmets of the three leading riders who had broken away from the peloton. A couple of minutes later the peloton arrived, nearly two hundred of them, in a blur of colour………
The spectacle itself last for under a minute but the excitement of the crowd was tantamount just prior to the riders arrival………people had come, several hours in advance to experience the atmosphere and build up to the race arriving.
People found comfortable patches at the side of the road, chairs were unpacked and picnics laid out……..there was even a family visiting from Switzerland who had placed little Swiss flags around their “campsite.” Men dressed as French onion sellers ambled along the roadside and young children held up banners they had made (in French and “cod” Yorkshire dialect) welcoming the tour.
So, a perfect day………beautiful weather, the grandeur of the Yorkshire Dales, the excitement of seeing the Tour de France and my nine month old grandson there to witness it all (well some of it, as he kept falling asleep).