We were expecting a lot of people to turn out for the Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire. However we weren’t prepared for the mass of yellow-clad spectators that greeted us on Saturday morning in Leeds.
After making a late dash for the start line, we were soon forced to re-think our plans. Police barred every turn.
No vantage point was left unoccupied: window ledges, bollards, the roofs of bus shelters and telephone boxes had all suddenly become ideal viewing platforms.
Eventually we found a spot where we could just about see the road and the much anticipated cycling action.
Nervous energy swept through the expectant crowd. The peloton suddenly emerged, heralded by helicopters overhead, before disappearing just as quickly into a sea of lofted phones, cameras, iPads and children.
Unperturbed, we made a beeline for the station to catch a train to Harrogate for the next part. We weren’t the only ones.
Despite extra train services, the queue stretched the length of the station and then some.
“It’s the only time I’ve heard the finer points of cycling race tactics discussed on a train!”
After an hour and a half (and we were nearer to the front of the queue than the back…!) we were aboard the train to Harrogate surrounded by other cycling fans.
I can safely say that this was the first (and probably only) time I have overheard a number of people discussing the finer points of cycling race tactics on a train!
The crowds of Leeds were matched by Harrogate. The town had put a similarly spectacular effort to mark the race with yellow, green and polka dots everywhere.
“We faced a tough decision. Stake our place at the roadside or wile away the house in the beer garden…”
The race still a few hours away, so spectators (me, mainly) faced a tough decision – stake their place at the roadside or wile away the hours until the arrival in a beer garden. I think you can guess which one we went for.
The Yorkshire sunshine helped time pass before the riders sped past, just as fast as before. No more will olive-skinned cyclists from the continent be able to complain about the cold, wet weather of England!
The Grand Depart was many things: scenic, well-attended, atmospheric – and who’d have thought it – sunny!