By local journalist, Brogan Cope, who has kindly written for us on her experiences of the day that showed off our fantastic county to the entire world!
On Saturday the 5th of July something incredible happened to Yorkshire, Le Tour De France came and grabbed the attention of thousands of people –not just from Yorkshire, but from all over the world. Starting in Leeds and ending with a sprint in Harrogate the 190km Stage One attracted people of all ages, including myself.
After a ridiculously early start and a somewhat claustrophobic train journey, I arrived in Ilkley at around 8am with packed lunch and camera at the ready. Immediately after arriving, there was a strong sense of excitement in the air as people rushed to get the best positions on the route. Local cafes and other businesses had made an extreme effort, by opening early and decorating their windows with some amazing displays (most carrying a yellow colour scheme).
Fuelled up on the typical Yorkshire breakfast; a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich, we headed down to find a spot to watch all the action. Luckily after crossing over the road we found the perfect spot, right on the barrier on a small street in the town centre. Even luckier we managed to be on the side of the road where the sun was shining, unlike on the other side of the road that was completely in shade. In traditional Yorkshire style, spectators were experiencing the somewhat bizarre weather of the county. On one side spectators had removed coats and jumpers, leaving them in their t-shirts and sunglasses, whereas on the other side of the road spectators stood shivering and huddling together wearing all the layers they had brought with them –I even saw one woman send her partner off to buy her an extra jacket. It wouldn’t be Yorkshire without our irrational weather now would it?
Eventually after waiting for what seemed like hours, the caravan started to arrive in style. With huge float like cars for the sponsors, and support cars with several bikes on the roof, they weren’t easy to miss. They all came flying past at what felt like 50mph, a number of times I pulled back from the barrier in fear of getting taken out by the huge Fruit Shoot vehicles. I must say I was slightly disappointed that I only managed to catch one freebie from the caravan, but nevertheless it was exciting to watch. With rumours abound that David Beckham was to be in the caravan, my excitement levels rose even higher but I was obviously disappointed. The sheer number of support vehicles built up the excitement in the crowd, especially when any Team Sky cars came whizzing past. I’m sure the cheers may have been heard all the way over the channel in France… I can honestly say I’ve never been remotely interested in the Tour De France at all, but after experiencing it firsthand I am already more interested and keen to know the goings on.
Eventually the caravan passed through, once again leaving the roads clear and the excitement building up. An unusual and almost deafening silence fell, it was like no one would dare to speak. After what seemed like forever the once in a lifetime experience was coming, a wave of cheering and clapping erupted up the road. Then they started to speed past me; everyone surrounding me were cheering and shouting and an even bigger roar came from the crowd when the Sky Team came zipping past. The whole morning had been spent waiting patiently for the cyclists to come speeding past, and now they were. Obviously as a teenager I decided that this may be the opportunity for an incredible ‘selfie’. Quickly I pulled my phone out and got in position to take a ‘selfie’ including the pack of cyclists that were going past. (Obviously I was behind the barriers, safety first kids!) The different coloured jerseys of each cyclist almost blurred into one due to the sheer speed they were travelling at, it was pretty much impossible to pick out any individual riders.
Finally after all the excitement of seeing the race itself; people started to clear out and head to Riverside Gardens where large screens showed the remainder of Stage 1, there were also lots of interesting food stalls and shops on offer. On my way over there I came across a group of people dressed up as over the top ‘stereotypical’ joke Frenchmen who had somehow persuaded two policemen to jump on children’s scooters and speed off down the road. It was hilarious to see everyone getting so involved with the day, and brilliant to see the bizarre costumes that were on display.
After getting to Riverside Gardens where everything was happening, I managed to plonk myself down on the grass and enjoy the rest of the day in the sun watching the race on the big screens and occasionally venturing off into the busy food stall area for candyfloss and food. All in all the whole experience was incredible, the live music and performances that followed later that evening were well worth watching. My personal favourite performance was from Joze school of Performing Arts, who did a few numbers from their most recent show ‘We Will Rock You’. They managed to get the crowd singing and dancing to some of Queen’s top hits.
At last it was time to leave, and after all the excitement I was just about ready for bed. So sunburnt and shattered I headed off to the train station to head home, to my dismay I was confronted with a huge queue that stretched along the road out of the station. Luckily the event volunteers (called racemakers who were in fine form all day) and police force had worked out a very effective system to quickly get everyone on the correct train. An expected over an hour wait was actually just under a twenty minutes wait, then I was able to get on a train home straight away. All in all, it was an exciting once in a lifetime experience that was a superb advert for Yorkshire and all that we have to offer.