Part 1 – The Journey to the Tour
I had an idea. The idea was to forget the car and cycle to the top end of Yorkshire, then spend the weekend cycling to points on the Tour circuit to watch. I wanted to camp, be self-sufficient and unsupported and take some camera gear, so opted to use a trailer and rack/pannier combo. Even going lightweight, the trailer weighed 24kg, panniers nearly 12kg, and with bar bag at 4kg, bottles and the bike itself (Dawes Ultra Galaxy), I was knocking on the door of around 53kg all loaded up. Nevertheless, Thursday 3rd July was a clear day, and I set off on a journey heading as close to a straight line north east as I could. The roads weren’t any more busy than normal, and I pedalled through Warrington and out towards Irlam and Manchester quite happily. 19 miles in, I was churning along in the traffic. The road was no more ‘pot-holey’ than usual, but I managed to ride into one consisting of a badly patched hole. I hit it no faster than 14 mph, and ‘bang’, I was on the deck. The tarmac that had filled the hole was no more than chopped up gravel, and the momentum of the trailer only served to make a fast deposit of rider onto road. I scrambled up and managed to get the bike up. My shoulder hurt like hell, and I has small amounts of road rash, and a small hole in a pannier. Handlebars had been realigned too!
I was absolutely determined not to pack in and return home, so sorted the bars out, and got back on the bike. After all, there were only about another 70 miles to go… Things then got better, and I got through Manchester and took a nice shortcut down the Rochdale Canal path.
After this, the easy bit stopped abruptly, and once through Rochdate, I headed out towards Littleborough and over the A58 where the Tour would head on Sunday. This was a brute of a climb on the beast of burden, and at one point, I was turning the granny gear to keep me at a steady pace of not stopping at 3.2mph (according to Mr Garmin). That’s 3.2 not 32…
The rest of the miles were just as hard, with relentless up and down slow, difficult, but still better than going to work, and with a purpose that made you just keep turning the pedals and enjoying it more. The purpose after Halifax was just to get through Bradford and Leeds (not the best cycling you’ll ever do!!) Continuing up to Collingham and Wetherby was great though. The sun shone, the wind was still behind me and I could feel the miles counting down to my destination.On up towards York, I turned towards Cattal and along the last few miles to Kirk Hammerton. The relief to be finishing this hard day was immense, and it was a joy to meet Rod, who immediately offered to make me a brew while I rested for a few minutes. What a great bloke. Rod was in WVCC in the late 70s, and amazingly kindly offered, out of the blue to let us camp in one of his fields.
It had taken me just short of 10 hours to arrive (food stops and all), so after the 87.6 miles I settled down to some good food and well earned rest. Everything else would wait until part 2 tomorrow. I was drifting off to sleep at 8 o’clock on Thursday…
Part 2 – Yorkshire goes Tour mad, and the arrival of the boys (and girls)
Friday meant that some reconnaissance was in order, to plan out a path to watch the tour in Otley, then back in Harrogate. A short but joyful journey sorted out a feasible back lanes route. On the way, more spray painted yellow bikes than you could shake a stick at, and virtually every village house decorated in some form or other. If anyone was in any doubt as to Yorkshire’s take-up of the tour, cast the thoughts aside, it was amazing to cycle through village after village seeing a tour-transformation.
On returning to the lonely field, a Pot Noodle (other tasty-ready-in-4-minute snacks-with-just-the-addition-of-hot-water-are-available) and a brew, I sat down and had a kip. Ten minutes later, a loud van horn woke me from my slumber as Al and Woody drove noisily onto the field. They were well prepared. Al had everything including the kitchen sink and a wooden table, tent, massive airbed (that only just fit into the tent), compressor, and a double sleeping bag (what was planned with that then? #worried). He also had bikes and tools in the van. We’d be alright with Al here. Woody was equally well prepared on his first ever camping trip, he brought a sleeping bag, two packets of Pringles (other-tube-based-crispy-snacks-are-probably-available), some beer and a bucket (to fill with water to keep his beer cool). Not sure whether he thought this was the Tour or V Festival…
Caroline and Dave amused themselves by arguing whilst putting up the tent. Later, Kev, Jack, Paul, Malcolm, Paul (BC Track Coach Sadist) and Jimmy arrived, and put up there tents in the pleasant evening shower of rain. Al ably assisted by offering to inflate everyone’s airbed with his compressor.
He was a bit of a show-off with this until it came to Jimmy’s turn, and as the airbed inflated, it caught on a chainwheel, and promptly burst. Laugh? We nearly did. Gaffa tape was of no use, but Al said ‘It’s okay, I’ve got a spare’, and Jimmy’s evening of discomfort was not to be, and his tent was up with extra protection from a large gazebo. It needed it, as a tent pole shattered as he put the tent up. Things usually come in threes, so he was lucky. This activity gave everyone an appetite and we whizzed off to the Bay Horse pub to collectively pig-out.
Part 3 – Rain, no rain, and Le Grand Depart
It rained overnight, and we got up to rain. No matter, we were all smiling, as we ate our breakfast, and Jimmy made a brew under his gazebo, whilst frying spam for breakfast. So proud was he of his shelter that he invited us to shelter under it whilst dining on our respective breakfasts. There was one thing though. That one thing was a gust of wind, only one gust of wind. The only gust of wind that then, (whilst Jimmy, Kev, Jack and I were under it) picked up the gazebo and blew it down the field, knackering it as it landed, before returning the still, wet, calm of the morning. Ah. Things come in threes. Told you.
We were okay though, and the rain seemed to ease slightly. We decided that it was time to get off to Otley, so we got into our club kit, and donned our overshoes just in case the rain stayed.
We set off, and as we pedalled the 20-odd miles to Otley, the weather started to brighten. Otley, as you might imagine, was packed, but we found a nice little spot up the hill near a bend, with reasonable views behind the exciting, waving crowds.
The caravane started to arrive, and excitement mounted..
The chaos subdued, and then lead cars came through as a faint bit of commentary was heard from Radio 5. The race had started, and no sooner had it done, than there was a breakaway. Not any breakaway, but one instigated by the big man – 42 year old Jens Voigt in his 17th tour, followed closely by Benoit Jarrier and Nicolas Edet.
As this was only half the day gone, we needed to get to Harrogate to soak up the madness. We cycled along in bright sunshine, overtaking many others with the same idea, and stopped at Trinity Church in the town to get some sausage butties, and of course some c*ke.
Al negotiated a special deal with the church for a small donation (which strangely involved a free piece of cake) so that we could leave pour bikes locked there. Harrogate was rammed with people, and a real party atmosphere was in the air.
At this point, Paul (BC Track Coach Sadist), felt a wave of guilt come over him for making us work so hard at the track on our winter training sessions, and by way of recompense for us all, bought us all some special Harrogate Pedal Power Golden Ale. Very kind Paul. We now all owe you a beer, and have no cause to complain at the velodrome this winter.
Harrogate was fantastic, and we left Jim in the fan park, whilst we walked to the finish line to wait whilst dignitaries came and went at the grandstand, and the finish got nearer. We all waited with baited breath as the sprint unfolded, and as we know, Cav unfortunately made too much of a gamble and lost. Marcel Kittel however took an emphatic win from Sagan to take the Maillot Jaune for the first day. We shuffled through the crowds after watching the podium awards, and got back to Jim – who’d already bumped into El and Kev on his way back to the church. The ride back to the site saw us riding past lots of stationary traffic, and then picking up the pace along the A59, which also saw me dropped (well I was still riding 25kg of bike and rack bag #excuses). We arrived in good time back at the site as we had booked for the pub for food.
A good time was had again at the Bay Horse, and we then rolled back to the camp site to collapse after an excellent day out. Garry and Mary and arrived, and had pitched their tent for ‘one night only’ if you hadn’t already sussed out the meaning of the sign…
Part 3 – Stage 2
Sunday brought a clear day, and an unhurried pace that meant we only needed to be less than a mile from our field to watch the procession and spectacle again. On the main A59 at the Green Hammerton junction, we stood and waited for le Tour. Again, the crowds were huge, with people flocking from all directions just to grab that few seconds of this show.
Again, the road was filled with the caravane..
..and that was it. What a spectacle. I was interviewed by a Daily Mail journalist who asked how this compared to watching it in France. ‘Every bit as good’, I replied. This was true. It was as always very impressively organised, and the people of Yorkshire were fantastic in embracing it in it’s entirety.
It was now approaching mid-day, and the crowds started to disperse to join various queues of traffic to get home. I had a slightly different agenda, as I had already packed up my trailer, and had the same trip to make to get home(!) I rode a few miles out of Kirk Hammerton and stopped at Cattal for a quick brew and a hot rice snack to fuel me up for the journey.
A headwind meant slow progress, and although the cycling was good through Wetherby and the lanes, Leeds and Bradford and Halifax were just hard(!) Climbing out through Ripponden a grueller, and I was ready for my tea at Baitstones reservoir at around 6pm.
The rest of the climb up to Blackstones reservoir was equally as hard as the first part of the climb, and it was a massive relief to get the big hills out of the way.
Arriving home at somewhere around 10:15 – 10:30 (i didn’t note the exact time) gave me 90.2 miles for the day, and an immense amount of satisfaction. The weekend was a huge success and places a marker down that we should probably do this sort of thing again… Up for it boys (and girls)?