my grandson was one year-old the very day that the tour de france set off from leeds en route to harrogate. there was, you'll be less than surprised to know, a three-line whip on family members to attend this momentous event, creating something of a potential quandary for yours truly. one didn't want to leave the little fellow solely to the ministrations of his mum and dad; i mean just how much fun can a one year-old have on a large bouncy castle?
i did point out prior to travelling to the great metrolops, that i would most likely be sat in front of my daughter's rather larger than life television, with its hi-fi sound, watching the yorkshire proceedings. (there was that one time when i thought of boycotting the start altogether after yorkshire was favoured over edinburgh, but that would have just been childish.) but in a distinct turn-about of the usual familial hierarchy, i was warned within an inch of my bottom bracket that that simply would not be happening.
unfortunately, a large bouncy castle didn't seem to qualify as a viable alternative.
however, all turned out a great deal more fortuitous than promised to be the case. hordes of mums, the occasional dad, and a bunch of screaming weans turned up shortly after lunchtime to totally dominate the bouncy castle, aided and abetted by more than just a few adults who had been warned to keep off. thus, it was simple enough to discretely remove myself from such joyous happenings and sit glued to the telly. the fact that there was a tad too much ambient noise to hear carlton and sean may actually have been considered a plus.
therefore i saw the false start from leeds, the meeting of the great and good at harewood house, a royal person cutting a ribbon (headlined in one of the national sunday papers rather creatively as the kate british bike off), and the nine red arrows streaking coloured smoke across remarkably clear blue skies. and i watched cav make a bit of an idiot of himself in the sprint, trying to barge his way to the line and end up going home instead.
sunday turned out to be even better, for everyone else headed out to some scary sounding shopping centre nearby, leaving me all alone to sloach about on their rather abundant sofa watching a peloton of riders make their way from york to sheffield.
but my watching of the 101st tour de france was presumably no different from anyone else's. there must be scores of homes across the country in which cycle racing is a less than minor interest, seen as a something of an intrusion, rather than a (moving) object of veneration. nobody even asked me who had won either stage, an omission for which i retaliated by telling them anyway. not that they cared.
however, we all genuinely marvelled at the enormity of the crowds at the roadside, at the fact that the weather was most un-yorkshire like, and that some folks managed to see anything at all. though the spectacle in the flesh must have proffered much to admire, there's little doubt that even with a bouncy castle in the back garden, i saw a lot more of the race than many.
however, to lift my head from the sand for a moment, that's entirely to miss the point. yorkshire had promised a grand depart to remember; i had embarrased myself in print by stating that if i never saw another press release for the tour depart, it would be too soon. boy do i look foolish now, and being reminded of that fact with the arrival of the creatively named pave (pan y agua velo europe ) publishing's two days in europe makes me realise just how far wide of the mark my lack of appreciation truly was.
a page of yellow sheep, that red arrows moment, thousands of people lining ilkley's church street, the man half out his skylight window as the race passes through skipton high street, but most of all, and every bit as important, that fabulous smell of ink on art paper beloved of rouleur subscribers all across the land. if you only ever nab yourself one book about the tour de france, make it this one. with photographic contributions from the grubers, rick robson, mark denton (is that a photoshop motion blur?), tim de waele and a whole host of other expert lenspeople, the large format colour photography is the sort of thing you'd go out and buy a coffee table for.
there are words, of course, but commendably of minimal quantity, and probably just like the assembly instructions for that ikea coffee table, you'll only read them as a last resort. for once the phrase "i only looked at the pictures..." won't confer dunce status upon the plaintiff.
the most fabulous photo in the entire publication is that depicted on pages 72 and 73 of the peloton climbing buttertubs in the yorkshire dales, seamlessly melding into the enormous crowds surrounding their efforts. though there's no mention in the book itself, apparently the oddly monikered climb is named after the 20 metre deep holes in the limestone, allegedly used by farmers to keep the butter cool on hot days while resting on their way to market.
two days in yorkshire is a marvellous testament as to how an essentially non-cycling nation can get behind a bicycle race that contians the name of a foreign country. not only does it honour gary verity's intrepid band of organisers and visionaries for bringing the race to yorkshire in the first place, it also offers plaudits to christian prudhomme for believing that they could. pave publishing should be proud.
thursday 11 september 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................