It’s 18 months since I stood in the snow outside Leeds town hall, watching a spectacular firework display celebrating the news that Yorkshire would host the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.
Now it’s upon us, and bikes are everywhere. On Saturday, the peloton will ride from Leeds to Harrogate taking in the Yorkshire Dales, before York to Sheffield on Sunday.
I love taking to two wheels, but have little interest in competitive cycling. I confess I’ve toyed with the idea of getting away from Yorkshire for the weekend, but the wish to be here and part of this huge event has gradually grown. Now I’m excited for the success I am sure we will make of it, to see our spectacular region showcased to the world, to watch everyone enjoying the celebrations around it and for the feel-good factor and boost for Yorkshire that – I hope – is sure to follow.
// the winding roads and stunning views of Buttertubs Pass, Upper Wharfedale / image Welcome to Yorkshire //
We’ll be in Skipton, where my sister-in-law lives. It’s a spectator hub and the tour will be passing through on Saturday. My dad is a volunteer ‘tour maker’, bless him (they’ll be the ones in head-to-toe garish green) – he always regretted not completing his application to be a ‘Games maker’ at the 2012 Olympics.
If the buzz has been a slow burn for you too, there are still ways to get involved.
♥ Tour de France opening ceremony, Leeds Arena, 3 July. As the cycling teams are welcomed to Yorkshire, defending champion Chris Froome will be on stage, as will Mark Cavendish, and there’s music from Embrace and Opera North.
♥ King of the Mountains Festival, Muker (at the foot of the Buttertubs Pass), Swaledale, 4-6 July. Three-day festival with music, comedy, Yorkshire food and beer, a big screen and just a short walk from one the best vantage points on Saturday as the cyclists take on the highest climb of the route. Most importantly, there’s camping.
♥ Beryl, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until 19 July. Tells the story of five times world champion Beryl Burton, born in Leeds in 1937. She beat the men’s record for the 12-hour bike time-trial for two years running.
♥ Tour de Cinema, until 5 July. 30 outdoor screens at unusual locations across Yorkshire showing films about cycling.
/ Tour de Cinema at Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales / image Welcome to Yorkshire //
♥ ‘Rubdown and rejuvenation’ party with Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, Outlaws Yacht Club, Leeds, Sunday 6 July, 11am-11pm. Free entry, Scotch cocktails, a mixing competition, virtual reality trike time trial and the Tour shown on screen.
♥ Art and Yorkshire: from Turner to Hockney, Mercer Gallery, Harrogate, until 12 October. How Yorkshire has influenced artists, writers, photographers and sculptors.
♥ Fields of Vision, South Pennine uplands, until 1 October. Designs sown, cut and woven into hillsides and grasslands around the race route by artists, environmentalists, schoolchildren, farmers and local cyclists.
There’s no doubt some people still have stereotyped and derogatory views on Yorkshire, and parts of our region still have big problems. But we’re also growing and shining, and building in confidence, positivity and pride. A few months ago, Lonely Planet placed Yorkshire third in the world’s top 10 regions then Harrogate was named the happiest place in Britain – again.
The only way is up. So it’s timely Yorkshire Water are looking forward and have produced a Blueprint for Yorkshire, outlining their plans for the next five years. They want to improve water quality, protect the environment, and have cleaner rivers and better beaches. As a big Yorkshire landowner, they’re also doing more work on walks, cycle paths and places for fishing and water sports – read more in their leisure guide.
Are you excited for the Tour to arrive? What is making you most proud about Yorkshire just now?
* written in collaboration with Yorkshire Water but content and opinions my own and honest