There has been strange activity up in the hills near us recently.
For months roads have been being resurfaced, not that they were the worst near here by any means.
Brand new white lines perfectly drawn.
Rumours abounding. Money from the EU. All Sheffield roads to be repaired. And believe me they need to be, the potholes need to be seen to be believed.
Then – “The Tour de France is coming to a village near you”
And those last rumours proved to be quite right. Last Sunday, Stage 2 of the Tour de France came through a village very close to mine.
Neighbours had parking places booked in farmers’ fields at £150.00 for the day: they had to be in place by 7.0 am and not able to leave much before 5.0 pm. Burger vans, camp sites, ice cream vans, memorabilia vans, you name it and they were there. You could not move in the small village for strangers and food outlets. And all the local pubs were cashing in with special weekend beer festivals.
We decided we could not afford to spend so much for parking, but neither did I feel I had the energy to walk the few miles which were nearly all up hill, to watch.
The cyclists were due to come through at about 3.30 pm we were informed. So at lunchtime we decided to take to the back roads and see how close we could get to the action. After all, we would not have the opportunity again.
I drove up one lane to find hordes of perspiring people toiling their way up a very steep, and hugely long, hill. No other cars were driving up so I feared that I would be stopped near the top and have to back all the way down through the crowds. Not a happy thought.
However, the stars must have been in alignment for us, because we were allowed right to the top of the hill, despite all the side roads being closed to cars, where a farmer had opened his field to cars for just £10.00. We drove across the field, parked and only had to walk about 25 feet to be at the side of the road, in a clear space from which to watch. You can just see the cars on the right behind wall.
The sun was shining and families had come with pushchairs, flags, sunshades and picnics.
There was a very spread-out five mile cavalcade of police cars, motorbikes, advertising vans – (all with scantily clad dancing girls on top and many throwing out free gifts), Tour de France vans, and every type of French Policeforce in evidence. Most of the French police were hailing us in strongly accented English and some were blowing kisses!
There were no crowd control barriers or police enforcement which was a nice change! One police car did stop and warn us that the Tour de France would come quick and fast and stop for nothing so we should stay behind the white lines for our own safety, but after that we were left to our own devices. Some of the Police stopped and gave children a ‘sit’ on their bikes and ‘high-fived’ people as they came past but it was all jollity and fun and music, no sense of constraint at all.
We were standing at 1,000 feet elevation so the cyclists had a climb up to us, and then were descending away into Sheffield.
Here they come, just over the top and coming down.
Right in front of me and now at speed.
Then in the flash of an eye they were past and going downhill
We thought it was all over but then several more groups of cyclists came past, clearly not the front runners but still working hard
All followed by the back-up cars with extra bikes and spare parts.
And that was it.
We gradually dispersed – drove back down the hill to a burger tent selling locally farmed meat and home made cakes, plus strong cups of tea.
A fun day.
Later we went to a local pub for our evening meal where the talk was all about who had been where, and how they had got there, and what they had seen. Just for once Yorkshire has seen some of the action even though we are not near London.
Mind you, on the local news later it was only North Yorkshire which got the real mention: during 30 minutes of Tour de France news we in South Yorkshire only got 30 seconds!