Friday 11 July 2014

Tour de France en Yorkshire!

My cycling buddy - Ray - and I have been planning for some time to follow the Tour when it came to Yorkshire.  The original plan was to take our campervan up for the 4 nights, however with it delayed again (long story) the contingency plan came into effect - camping out in a tent. Luckily Ray had access to one so it didn't cost us any more.  Way back in October last year I booked us a pitch at the Velofest, based in Kilnsey.  Included in the price was our pitch, toilets, hot showers and access to the main arena for food, drink and live music in the evening.  So over the coming months we planned our trip and I was packed and ready a full week before. Here's our story.....

Thursday 3 July 2014
I left work at midday and Ray arrived just after 2pm.  After a cuppa and a catch up, we loaded up his car with all our stuff, strapped the bike rack to the back of the car and tied our bikes on. Then we were off!  The journey was mainly up the M6 before branching off and heading towards the Dales.  We arrived at the campsite at about 4.30pm parked up and grabbed the tent to find a decent pitch.  A lot of people had arrived already, so it took a while to find a spot, but once done we soon put the tent up. Once this was done, we went off to get our Velofest wristbands. The next hour or so was spent fetching kit and bikes from the car, putting up the windbreak, blowing up air beds and getting our little camp set up. The bikes were stored safely in the tent porch and I got the kettle on and the seats out for a cup of tea - time to chill!

Later we headed off to look around the main arena.  We wandered around to check out the food and drink stalls - Ray finally decided on fish & chips and I had a chicken balti.  We also grabbed a coffee.  The arena had two giant screens set up to allow everyone to watch each stage and that evening they were showing the Team Presentations, so we watched the end of that.  By this time it was getting late (for us!) so we headed back to the tent to read our cycling mags for a while, before crashing out for the night.  It was a bit grey and drizzly overnight and we both (being men of a certain age) had to get dressed and walk to the loos a couple of time in the night.  It's clear they had underestimated how many portaloos they needed and how soon they would fill up - it was pretty grim, enough said on that score!

Loading up ready to leave

Settling the bikes into their temporary home

Team Presentation on the big screens
Must be beer o'clock!

Chilling with a cuppa!

Friday 4 July 2014
We woke on Friday to sunny weather with a bit of a southerly breeze.  Neither of us slept that well, mainly due to the noise, floodlights and having to get up to the loo a couple of times in the night!  After a cuppa we walked over to get a bacon roll and coffee for breakfast. Our plan today was to get out on our bikes and explore some of Stage 1.   Bikes checked over, water bottles filled and changed, we headed out of the campsite and turned right opposite the Tennants Arms.

We were now on a section of Stage 1 - tomorrow the riders would be cycling on these roads. The route was fairly gentle - a few undulating climbs but nothing too strenuous to start with and the scenery was outstanding - green fields, dry-stone walls and sheep - lots and lots of sheep! There were loads of cyclists on the route of all ages, shapes and sizes.  After about 3 miles we dropped down into the village of Kettlewell, an extremely pretty spot with a small stone bridge over the River Wharfe and a lovely country pub.  The road is narrow and windy here so the the riders tomorrow could be quite bunched; no doubt it will be a popular and busy viewing point.  We continued onwards, soon passing the small hamlet of Buckden.  On our right a local church hall was offering bacon butties, sausages in baps and hot drinks, shouting from the gate to come on in - we said we would on the way back.

By this time we were seeing parking signs for the Cote de Cray - this is one of the first climbs on Stage 4 and is a Cat 4 climb.  This was quite a long climb that started gradually, but then got steeper nearer the top as the road twisted and turned.  It certainly got us both puffing and at the top it was windy and rainy.  After catching our breath, a drink we turned around and headed down, Ray burning rubber as his tyres gripped the road as he hurtled down, me burning rubber as I squeezed my brakes as hard as I could!  At the bottom we stopped as promised for a sausage bap and a cup of tea at the church hall before starting our return trip.  On the way we came across a field of sheep dyed yellow - lots of people in cars, on bikes and on foot were stopping to take photos.  

Back at the site we had a good hot shower and by this time it was threatening rain, so we sat in the tent reading as the rain started.  A break in the rain allowed us to walk out and get something to eat before heading back to the tent.  By this time it was raining heavily so it was an early night for us.

Top of Cote de Cray

Cooling off!
Baa Baa Yellow Sheep, have you any wool

The sun setting over Kilnsey Crag

End of a great day

Saturday 5 July 2014 - Stage 1: Leeds to Harrogate
It rained very heavily all night, stopping at about 6am.  Although our sleeping areas were dry, quite a lot of rain had entered the sitting area so some time was spend bailing out, mopping up and trying to get stuff dried, but at least the bikes were safe.  After breakfast we got ourselves ready and headed out to find a good spot to watch the Tour.

The road had been closed to vehicles since 6am so we know it would be fun cycling up the road.  We again turned right and cycled out along the route for about 3 miles, stopping at a metal gate set back from but right next to the route.  Then it was a waiting game; luckily the weather was good, if not a bit breezy so we were glad of our jackets.  During this time many thousands of spectators cycled past us, some in fancy dress.  The first of the British and French motorcycle cops came through, as well as tour cars and vans.  Another 'Fareham Wheeler' came along, recognised Ray's top and stopped for a chat.  About 1130 the caravan came through, travelling at speed - those sat on the top looked pretty chilly!  A couple of hours later we sensed the riders were getting closer as we could see helicopters coming up the valley. Finally the first riders came over the brow of the hill and down towards us, a breakaway of 3 riders, followed a few minutes later by the peleton, with all the usual motorbike outriders and team cars.  After clapping and cheering them through quiet returned, so we jumped on our bikes and headed back to the Velofest site.  A quick change and we headed off to grab some food and drink, while watching the Stage on the giant screens.  The hog road baguettes went down well with a pint of lager, closely followed by a pasty (I managed to persuade Ray to have one - more of that later).  We witnessed Cav crash in the closing sprint and joined in the collective groan.  It was hot and sunny and we had sunburned heads. We then went back, got changed and headed out on our bikes again to ride off the food and drink.  Turning right and heading up the route, we decided to climb Cote de Cray again.  By this time Ray was feeling the effects of his pasty and, as we approached the top of the climb, he decided the pasty and him should part company!  At the top it was sunnier than yesterday so we stayed a while longer, before turning around and heading down again. We passed the site and carried on down the road, turning off towards Grassington before reversing our route and heading back.

Back at the site, after a hot shower and a brew, we headed over the road to the Tennants Arms, for a couple of pints of welcome bitter, while watching the (very middle-aged) DJ throwing some shapes at the outside disco!  Even the adults and children waiting at the bus stop opposite were dancing and they eventually gave up waiting for the bus and crossed over to join the party. We returned to the site to get some food.  It was a clear and still night and by this time getting very chilly.  We sat at a table having our food then returned to the tent for a hot drink.  We actually managed to stay up until about 11.30pm tonight, but by then it felt really cold and it took a while for me to warm up in my sleeping bag.  But eventually quiet returned to the site, apart from the odd 'pub singer' in his tent, and peace returned.

Fareham Wheelers x 2

View from our spot

Where's the peloton?

Sat in the hot sun watching Stage 1

He'll regret that beer later!

Checking texts on his 'modern' phone!

Sunday 6 July 2014 - Stage 2: York to Sheffield
We had a bit of a lie in this morning (until 8am) as we had a bit more time to get down to a spot to watch Stage 2.  We'd decided earlier that we weren't going to stay overnight tonight but instead head back to Cheshire.  So we dismantled and packed what we could and took it to the car, but left the tent up so we could change. This time we turned left and rode down, turning off near Grassington then heading towards the village of Burnsall and then on to Bolton Abbey. This was only about 12 miles but was very hilly so we certainly felt every mile.  Arriving at Bolton Abbey it was already very busy so we locked up the bikes and found a spot by the A59, at the bottom of a hill and right next to a traffic island - could be interesting.  The caravan had already passed through so we only had to wait about an hour for the riders.  This time there was a breakaway of 7 riders who came through a few minutes ahead of the peloton. This time they were riding much faster and the noise from the crowd improved the atmosphere.  It took us a while to get away from here but eventually we were back in the hilly countryside.  We stopped off at a tea shop in Burnsall for a coffee and flapjack before heading back to the site.

We dismantled the tent and secured the bikes back onto the rack before heading off for a cool shower.  We walked to the arena to get some cold drinks for the journey home and stood to watch the remainder of Stage 2 on the big screens before jumping in the car and starting our journey home.

We had a great weekend watching the tour both in real life and on the giant screens, riding some of the route ourselves and relaxing.  It was good to have my cycling wing-man with me again - we ride well together and the banter and laughter carried on all weekend.  Hopefully next year we can go and see some of the Tour in France in our campervan.

Stopping at Burnsall

Coffee and flapjack time

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