I’m so proud, I think my heart is going to burst and leave a big mess of happiness splattering across the entire perimeter of God’s Chosen County.
This last weekend Yorkshire was the epicentre of the cycling world as the Tour de France and its huge entourage of media, cool gendarmes on their smooth Kawasakis, over-excited police on spluttering BMWs and bizarre publicity vehicles sporting giant French fries and huge pots of yoghurt each playing its own Europop tracks.
More than two million people lined the roads and hills of our wonderful county to welcome the world’s largest sporting event. Never mind the World Cup, forget the WImbledon finals, ignore the British Grand Prix, even if it was celebrating its golden jubilee, the Tour de France in Yorkshire was all that mattered and we were part of it.
It seemed almost like a dream when Yorkshire pipped our north-of-the-border cousins to the post in the race to host the start of Le Tour. Cheeky Welcome to Yorkshire Chief Executive Gary Verity charmed Le Tour’s bigwigs with Yorkshire hospitality which I understand included mucky fat sandwiches and a Betty’s Fat Rascal, washed down with a pint of Saltaire Blonde, then took them by helicopter to see our stunningly beautiful countryside. No contest, Yorkshire won the day and Le Tour.
Both Noel and I volunteered to be Tourmakers, helpers dressed in lime green and powder blue, carrying flags and whistles, all enthused and excited to be part of this great spectacle. Even the 3.30am start on Saturday wasn’t onerous, we were determined to enjoy every minute of the day.
I’d no idea what to expect, I’m not a follower of the Tour, so I was ready for anything. It started with all the cyclists who took advantage of the closed roads to have their own tour. The gathering crowds grew excited and cheered anything and everything, including the police bikes as they sped through. I ask you, when did you last cheer a police bike? Or the press cars come to that matter. By the time the caravan of publicity caravan went through, the cheers were deafening, even I got loud applause as I retrieved a piece of metal from the road, by gum I lapped it up. The peleton came and went within minutes, but the experience went on and on.
The next day we were on one of the many Yorkshire hills waiting excitedly for a second glimpse of the Tour de France machine. We knew what was coming and it made us cheer all the more, a glorious, wonderful, moving experience. How we wept.
Watching the highlights later on the TV we cheered all over again. Not so much for the cyclists, brilliant though they are, but for our county. The hills and dales, dry stone walls, cobbled streets and big sky that we see every day, but were new and a delight to the rest of the world. Towns and villages had embraced the event, bunting was everywhere, yellow bikes were suspended from walls, houses and even churches and buildings were transformed with King of the Mountain red spots. It made me so proud.
It’s all over now, though the marks on the road remain, proclaiming the names of heroes, Froome, Contador, Cav and of course our Yorkshire saying ‘ey up’.