So my children have coped admirably with England defeat. So much so that as we watched Brazilians openly weeping in the stadium after their comprehensive thrashing by Germany (1 – 7 just in case there is someone on the planet who didn’t know) they would watch so dispassionately and remark that they would get over it.
Buoyed up by their resilience to English football results, I thought I would throw another sport into the mix and I dragged them out of bed on Saturday morning at an UNEARTHLY hour to watch the Grand Depart of the 101th Tour De France from Leeds Town Hall. For months now I had been watching with rising levels of interest and excitement as Yorkshire decorate itself (in increasingly more eye-catching and inventive ways) in the tour jersey colours Yellow, Green and White with Red Spots in readiness for the world’s greatest cycle race.
There was disappointment in the week leading up the day when it was announced that Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be in team Sky due to the support (domestiques n’est-ce pas) needed for Chris Froome the defending champion. As any regular reader of my blog will now I have supported him for a long time (click on his name if you want to read it) so I was quite gutted that the first British champion ever of the TDF wouldn’t be riding up the Headrow at 11.10 am on Saturday 5 July 2014.
Still we had Cav, practically a Yorkshire man as his mum lived in Harrogate (the finish for Stage One) so I managed to get over the absence of my favourite mod cyclist and we joined in the throng of happy (and a few a bit grumpy) spectators and stood behind the barriers and waited, and waited and waited
It was fairly surreal standing in crowd 4 deep on a Saturday morning when then Town Hall clock said it was only 8.15 am watching the oh so cool Gendarmes walking along the street in wraparound shades even before the sun came out. There were many, many, many vehicles, from motor bikes to pick up trucks all with French number plates and official looking stickers zooming around looking very official and very important to keep our interest.
We saw Christian Prudhomme (the organiser of the TDF) be interviewed right in front of us.
We saw giant fruits shoots and packets of chips fly past us as part of the “Caravan” a convoy of vehicles that precede the riders around the 190km course. It had to be the most surreal part of the day. But before we could really process what we had actually seen the riders started coming out and being interviewed. The tension in the crowd was palpable and as the riders lined up in front of Leeds Art Galley I had my first glimpse of the pelaton. It was more thrilling than rows of brightly coloured plastic helmets ever have the right to be. Then they were off on the roll out up Harewood House where the official race would be started by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We saw them all, Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and nearly 200 other sleek lyrca’d machines pedaling leisurely up the Headrow. It was so exhilarating that moments after they passed my legs were like jelly such was the intensity of the adrenaline rush
We had train tickets to go onto Harrogate for the finish to meet with friends but it wasn’t to be. N and I came home (and H to a party) and watched the rest of the race unfold on television. The sun had come out and so had every single person in Yorkshire it seemed. Everyone on the highest of highs and not just those on Cote De Buttertubs.
Yorkshire looked so beautiful. The race was so exciting. I knew every inch of the road. Ariel shots of Middleham Castle, home of Richard III, Jerveux Abbey and Fountains Abbey, the location of many a sun-filled family picnic all looked glorious. Harrogate was full to bursting point and as Cav was lead out by his team up Ripon Road (the loudest shouts coming from my dad I have no doubt) it looked like the sprinter would get his much dreamed of stage win in his mother’s hometown and get to wear the Maillot Jaune on Stage 2. Alas for poor Cav it was not to be the fairytale ending as he crashed painfully just before the line and and Marcel Kittel crossed the line just outside Bettys on Parliament Street.
But despite that it was the most intoxicating day, all my friends were messaging each other delighting in their “blink and you miss it” stories that all ended in”but it was so worth it and I have never been prouder of Yorkshire” And best of all we got to do it all over again the next day. My dad always said it was bigger and better in Yorkshire and really I don’t think there was anyone in the world that would have disagreed. The Tour in Yorkshire was a Triumph. This is really what this blog is about. I want to say thank you to Gary Verity for having the vision and balls to pull this off. I want to say thank you to every single person who decorated a bicycle yellow and dotted them around the route. Who bunted or covered statues in yellow jerseys. The pub in Knaresborough who painted red spots all over their walls. To the farmer in Killinghall who painted his sheep in the colours of the three iconic jerseys. To all my friends who swapped pictures on social media to allow us all to get intimate views and pictures of their experiences. You all made this weekend one of the greatest of my life.
Of course N and I got out on our bikes in the evening. As the sun set behind Temple Newsam N was determined to ride up the hill to the house. “I need to conquer this hill” she said. “Every time my legs hurt I just think of the Tour De France riders”. Now then, isn’t that a champion legacy. Non? Bien Sur!