Fri 25 July 2014

Tour de France

So this post is a couple of weeks late really but better late than never I hope.

It's no secret I'm a fan of cycling; both doing it myself and watching it too. With the Tour de France having the first 3 stages in the UK this year it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Especially after going to France to watch some stages last year and loving it.

Luckily for me the first 2 stages were in Yorkshire where I have family so I had a place to stay. My sister in law Caroline and friend Kieran came along too and we headed up after work on Friday. The drive was awful. Lots of rain and speed restrictions on the motorway meant it took about 6 1/2 hours to get there. :(

Early the next morning we drove off to Skipton and then, after a small incident with a very over-zealous marshall who was trying to keep all the cyclists off the route - put some people in a uniform huh?, we headed north through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. The route was thronged with spectators already with loads of decorations and messages written across the tarmac. Everyone seemed happy and smiling and there was a wonderful atmosphere. We managed about 12 miles before some marshalls convinced us the cars were coming soon so we stopped on a small hillock and waited for it all to start. Well the cars didn't come for ages and the marshalls' "5 minutes to clear the road" warning to other cyclists become a bit of a joke amongst the small crowd on our hillock. Eventually the publicity caravanne passed through but compared to my trip to France they were very stingy in passing out the freebies. Austerity in action?? Then the race started getting close. The TV helicopter getting closer and helping build the excitement then a small breakaway with Jensie in passed followed by the peloton a few minutes later. It is all over in moments but to go spectate at the Tour is more a day out then about watching the race itself. Pondering our options (go straight home, try to get food, try to have a ride) a chap came along handing out free day passes for the Velofest taking place about half a mile away. It was basically a 2 day festival with camping, music, food etc for folks that wanted to make the most of the trip to watch the race. Turned out to be perfect for us as they were showing the race on a big screen and there were loads of food stalls. That was our afternoon sorted! We ended up getting sunburnt as we didn't bring any with us when we left for the day as it was raining then. One of the highlights of the day was being passed on a climb by a chap who was late 50s at the youngest. As he passed he said, in a braod Yorkshire accent, "you're not bad for a big lad". Thing is he was actually being complimentary but still made me laugh a lot! Also got dropped on a climb by the Sussex Nomads club, who'd obviously made the journey up to watch, but have been dropped by them on a climb back in Sussex too. Seemed like they'd followed me there just to repeat it!

Here's Strava details for the ride.

On the Sunday the plan was to ride 1/2 mile to where the stage route passed then ride the route in reverse to get out of Sheffield and on one of the short sharp hills there. The ride out of Sheffield killed me as the hill just kept going, with no clue as to where it'd end. Think it was about 3 miles before it finished but it had some really steep bits in. We ended up on the Col de Bradfield which wasn' where we'd hope to get to but as we were trying to get through we realised all the best viewing places were nearly gone so we wouldn't get anywhere on the next hill by the time we got there. In the end there were THOUSANDS of people on this hill, it was heaving. There were people turning up for the whole 4 hours we were waiting. Again a great atmosphere and again the caravanne was a bit stingy! Kieran and I were particularly disappointed we didn't get a spotty King of the Mountains hat, but Caroline did! Some of the highlights of the day were the crowd trying to get the police motorbike to do a wheelie or a burnout (he didn't, boo!) and when the McCain Oven Chips float came the crowd started chanting "chips, chips, chips". Having 10,000 Northerners chanting chips is pretty amazing! One of my favourite messages painted on the road was "Pikey Dave brings nowt to the table". It actually ended up on the TV footage, unlike us as we just missed being shown on both stages.

Here's a small video I shot as the front of the peloton passed.

and here is details of the route we did on strava.

After that it was time to thank my aunt for being such a good host and get back down the M1 and ready for work the next day.