Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Tour de Yorkshire

Every now and then, life serves up a pleasant surprise - such as a brand spanking new, top flight bicycle race finishing at the bottom of the road where you live:

The race is Gary Verity's baby. The Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive was pretty keen to make sure the Tour de France's visit to Yorkshire last year left a lasting legacy, and this - with a bit of luck - will be it.

It deserves to be. Even though the Tour de Yorkshire was not enlivened by an epic, fixie prompted pile up - oh, I know you've seen the video already, but shall we just have one more look? It doesn't make you a bad person...

 Oooof! Blimey!

I do sneakily love the brief shoulder check he does after he goes under the tape: "Oh, the peloton's coming. I reckon I can keep up, I'll  just go for it."

...erm yes, so even though it wasn't enlivened by an epic fixie prompted pile up, it was incredibly exciting. The race came bombing down the hill to Peasholm Park, and then climbed up into town, behind where me, Mrs L and the girls were stood; so we heard it pass in a rush of cheers, the noise of the bikes and the clatter of the camera helicopter - which was incredibly low. See if you can spot it in the pictures below.

The commentary over the speakers really brought home the speed that the thing was moving at, naming landmarks that take a good few minutes to walk between ten or twenty seconds apart.

Then the leaders popped into view around the castle headland, with Lars Petter Nordhaug leading the charge.

The field was really spread out, which I wasn't expecting. While I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the stage route would have put me in my grave if I'd tried to ride it, there are no mountains to climb; so I'd kind of imagined that the peloton might saunter across the line together, eagerly chatting about whether to have their post ride pint at the Newcastle Packet or the Golden Ball...

There were acres of carbon fibre, but Team Madison Genesis were there too, with their extremely lovely, stainless steel Volare team bike.

Mrs L, who I have previously assumed is allergic to cycling, then insisted on spending a giggly ten minutes outside Team Wiggins' luxury motor home, trying to catch a glimpse of Sir Bradley trying to make brews for ten men with only a travel kettle:

"Oi Mark. Is it free sugars or four?"

After a good night's kip, I decided that - far from putting me in the ground - riding a bit of Stage 1 would make me feel fabulous.

It was a beautiful morning. There was some rain knocking around, but it was as if it had been turned off immediately before I opened the back door.

The tour followed the River Derwent up to Langdale End, an incredibly pretty hamlet perched on the ridge between two branches of the valley. It has a superb pub called the Moorcock. Even though it wasn't open yet, I could at least stop, take a picture and breath in the beery goodness emanating from its stout stone walls - all simple pleasures denied the peloton the day before.

I know I'm in danger of overusing the word beautiful in relation to this bit of the world, but it really does feel like whoever made it was putting in some extra effort. I love the contrast between the miniature scale of the twisting road and the solid farmhouses, and the looming hills and slopes behind.

Eventually the road leads to Bickley Gate, the back door to Dalby Forest. This is a naughty little climb, with a hairpin bend part of the way up...

...which scrubs off all of the momentum that you really need for the precipice beyond. I was on the more rubbish of my two Viscounts, and in spite of sticking it into bottom gear (and wiggling the gear lever a bit, just in case there were some more gears I'd forgotten about) there was a lot of sweating, swearing and grunting involved in getting to the top.

"Allez? Yeah right...", I thought, hating the massive chasm between my willpower and ambition.

It's so going on ebay. And the money it makes is getting spent on gears. Massive, hill climbing gears with cogs the same diameter as Frank Sidebottom's head.

As is the way on these Saturday morning rides, I more or less had the road to myself. This spotless MGB passed me on the way back down the valley, looking very much at home.

The ride was lovely, but there was another treat when I got home. Some of the pro riders the day before had logged their rides on Strava; so where I'd managed manged just shy of six miles per hour up Howden Hill, Etienne van Empel took it at a somewhat more brisk fourteen and half. And then did another 100km or so of the same right aftrewards.

He did have to wear a LOT of orange stretchy clothes while he was doing it though.