Sunday, 6 July 2014

Le Tour de France - July 2014

Knaresborough, winner of the 'best dressed' Tour de France host town in Yorkshire and our base for the weekend

Given the high proportion of Yorkshiremen in the Club, it was de rigueur that we put in a good attendance at this year's Grand Depart from Yorkshire.
So, fortified by gallons of local beer, French wine, dessert wine and, strangely, port, the night before, the gallant team headed for Harrogate, eschewing bikes for one day only, to get the bus into Harrogate with WAGs and mini team members Edie and Finlay to see the circus that surrounds the Tour.
Leaving sunny Knaresborough, adorned with yellow painted bikes hanging off shop fronts, houses, the (many) pubs, and churches throughout the town, plus knitted bunting (only in Yorkshire...), we soon entered the grand old town of Harrogate, a sea of Lycra, cycle jerseys and silly hats. We had a quick look at the finishing straight before finding our way into the huge fan park, our abode for the rest of the day.
Blessed with hot sunshine and a nearby bar, we idled the day away watching the race on big screens and getting prodigiously sunburnt.
The finale was a little bit of a anti-climax, given Cav's spectacular crash out on the finishing straight, but at least he put his hand up and admitted it was his own fault. A proper chap.

Harrogate celebrates Le Tour arriving on its doorstep!

Finish line for end of Stage 1
Fan Park in Harrogate

Coach & Horses, renamed in Cav's honour
Up early the following morning (well, at least by the Prattachi family's standards) to reposition our peloton of five, Jan, Stewie, Alanssandro, Heyddie and Fabian, to Scholes in West Yorkshire, near the base of Holme Moss, one of the bigger climbs for the riders on Stage 2.
In good weather, a fast descent down Hade Edge brought us into Holmfirth and the reality of cycling into one of the Tour stages. Hundreds, nay, thousands of people all climbing up the road through Holmbridge and then Holme up to Holme Moss itself. Kids on bikes, mums and dads following them, old codgers with walking sticks. Mountain bikers zig-zagging their way up the hill (why?) and walkers generally getting in the way of proper bikers. Hey ho. Millions of pounds worth of carbon, Lycra, Rapha gear (probably Southerners...?) all glinting its way uphill.

Team GRAC at the summit of Holme Moss
Our viewpoint on Holme Moss
The pre-Tour 'caravan' passing by
Holme Moss, a Cat 2 climb of just 4.7km was quickly dispatched by Team GRAC (although there was one notably red face at the top, and it wasn't sunburn...) before we picked our viewing platform for the day. Surrounded by some proper bikers, a couple of oiks who insisted on wearing large rimmed sun hats and standing up in front of us a lot of the time, and assorted non-cyclists who were there just for the spectacle, we settled in for a long wait.
Time passed with crowd spotting, the inevitable crowd 'wave', waving at Police helicopters (why?) and shouting support to young riders battling up the hill. Then the Tour caravan passed through, and eventually the TV helicopters appeared in the sky, and almost six hours after we had found our spot we were rewarded with a good view of the breakaway and the following event which lasted about five minutes.
Worth seeing, but only once. Next time, a bucket of beer, a comfy sofa and big TV screen will do very nicely.

Spot the riders...

Then, of course, the mĂȘlĂ©e to get off the hill. A tangle of bikes, riders, ambulances, police bikes and assorted non-cyclists, dogs, etc, many of whom were descending into Derbyshire, so two-way movement was very slow. And, ominously, the very dark clouds started to form above.
We walked at least a kilometre before we were able to mount our bikes, and then made progress only with extreme caution given that pedestrians somehow forgot they were on a road filled with cyclists, duh.

The slowest descent ever!

Then, through Holme and Holmbridge, the heavens opened. Proper Yorkshire rain, roads turned into cascades in minutes, but Team GRAC were quickly through Holmfirth to enjoy the final challenge of the day, the ascent of Hade Edge.
All in all, a good day out. Excellent roast beef sarnies, Yorkshire pork pie and a bottle of Yorkshire beer sustained us.
Once again, thanks for Jan & Mrs Prattachi for organising this and the whole weekend :-) 

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