Sunday, 6 July 2014

Le Tour de France over Cotes de Buttertubs

Public Art above Simonstone
Usual generous Yorkshire hospitality
No Brad or Millar so Cav and Yates get the support 
Le Tour meets Wensleydale 
From Scarborough, Yorkshire but they didn't throw out any samples
French silliness on a Skoda
King of the Mountains
The moment we had been waiting for as the peleton sweeps into view

Head of the Peleton
Peleton on Buttertubs climb

Would they miss one of these?
 ey up lass - cavorting with the police outriders,
I had not been so excited for years, Le tour was in Yorkshire and we were only 50  miles away. We left Langdale and drove to Kendal and then on to Sedburgh. The small market town was heaving and the street market provided us with a picnic. The friendly Policeman thought we could get to within 2 or 3 miles of Hawes and suspected that there would be some enterprising Yorkshire farmer harvesting his fields with parking lots. We charged on, every lay-by was filled with cars and vans disgorging cyclists and the road was awash with velocipedes of every description. Tandems, road bikes, mountain bikes, children's trailer bikes, and hundreds of trusty steel framed touring bikes from the 1960's pedalled by men of the same vintage.

We managed to get beyond the Moorcock Inn, which some had warned would be the limit. Just before Hawes we were diverted down a side road to Simonstone, where a happy looking farmer was filling his recently cut hay field with cars for £10 a go. It made European 'set aside' money seem like small beer. We then had a mile or so to walk to the climb of the day: Buttertubs Pass which joins Wensleydale with Swaledale over Abbotside Common. A large bike had been painted high on the fell side, the village was awash with bunting, the pub was overflowing with pre noon beer drinkers and everyone was happy, very happy.

We found a comfortable bit of wall about halfway up the ascent to Buttertubs and settled down with hundreds of others to await developments. The occasional motorbike came through and there were dozens of cyclists making their own pre tour pilgrimage to the summit, only the tandem with a dad with his two children pedalling furiously received acclaim. The mood was like a carnival, the local residents were welcoming and you could use their bathrooms for a pound. Another farmer was selling grandstand seats in a field near the summit of the climb for £5, the seats were moulded out of bare rock.

The road had been relaid with a rough Yorkshire asphalt, the cats eyes re-instated and along with the cattle grids they would test those pesky cyclists. Lots of names had been chalked on the road, most notably Sir Bradley and Simon Yates. Cav had his followers too but Chris Froome was virtually absent on the road or flags. It may be that Dave Brailsford should have followed sentiment rather than cold logic when selecting his team. To deny the British public the chance to see the two most recent and only British winners of the tour in mortal combat is the sort of thing we expect from dodgy boxing promoters not the undisputed architect of British cycling success. Team Sky had only two British riders, one from Kenya and the other from Wales. How will that help British cycling in the long term, surely the experience of football should tell him that.

But enough of the grumbles, this was a wonderful spectacle which lurched into life when the caravan of sponsors began to assail us with loud music, gifts and gallic humour. The atmosphere was ramped up by dogs painted with red spots, fancy dress and raunchy comments as dozens of vehicles went through for the next fifteen minutes accompanied by French gendarmes and Yorkshire, Cornwall and Devon police on motor bikes, all brandishing grins that told us they were not used to being applauded and certainly not in Yorkshire since the miners strike.

There was a gap of an hour until the race began to approach signalled by four helicopters buzzing up Wensleydale at an altitude that would have scared the Viet Cong. Then a series of lead motorbikes and cars before Jens Voigt, the 42 year old veteran German cyclist, appeared as the lone break away. He was followed by thirty or more vehicles before 3 minutes later another two riders came through followed by the peleton. I was standing on the verge and was brushed by several of the passing cyclists as they jockeyed for position on the climb. Further up the peleton was stopped as the crowd squeezed them into an ever narrower file and standstill attempting to recreate the scenes on the big alpine climbs.

And then another phalanx of motor bike gendarmes and police. they stopped in front of us as the peleton stalled and offered to pose for pictures as they delighted in their untrammelled popularity. The crowd was electric with excitement as we all returned to the fields to collect vehicles.  The watching cyclists began to emulate their heroes after the sweep up car had passed through and started their ascent of Buttertubs. We were regaled with the sight of the peaceful rustic Dales on a beautiful summer afternoon, had we dreamt that Le tour had just passed through?

And then we remembered the beauty of the Dales 

No comments:

Post a Comment