Summer 2014, what will we do? Discussions way back in time and we formed a plan.
Summer 2014, what will we do? Discussions way back in time and we formed a plan - enter the Cholmondeley Castle Triathlon at the end of June. This would be suitable for both of us as Paul could do an Olympic/standard distance while there was a ‘super sprint’ for me (i.e. a short swim!). Looking at the calendar and a map we realised that it was a short hop over to take in the Yorkshire part of the Tour de France so a convenient Travelodge was booked. Paul then found a triathlon, standard distance at Ullswater so plans were there for a couple of weeks away from home. About 10 days before we left we planned the intermediate weeks - time in the Lincolnshire Wolds (neither of us had been there) and time near Wensleydale. These will be in a different post.
We arrived at the Leeds Morley Travelodge on the Friday and took the train into Leeds so we could work out what to do the next day. At Leeds station we bought a weekend rover ticket for £15 - this would let us get up to Harrogate (twice) and down to Sheffield as well as in and out of Leeds.
The centre of Leeds was quiet; we wandered around, feeling a bit out of place. There were loads of people willing to help at any time (Tour Makers), you hardly dared to stop to read the map as someone would offer to help you! We found a decent cup of coffee and then headed back to the accommodation.
Saturday and we were up at 6am and at the station by 7:30am. Shock #1, the platform was about 6 people deep. The first train stopped and the doors did not even open, it was so full. 30 minutes later the next train stopped and the same story. What to do? Phones out and decide to walk into Leeds, a distance of about 8km. The city centre was packed when we got there so we walked along the route until there was slight bit of daylight beside a barrier, about 2km along the route. The riders were cycling reasonably slowly as the race proper did not start until Harewood House. They were followed by loads of team cars and then the team buses. After all this exercise / excitement we sat at the edge of a roundabout and ate our sandwiches.
The plan was to catch a train to Harrogate and watch the finish. Haha! The station was busy and the queue for the Harrogate train went out of the station, zigzagged around a parking area and then headed for the Long Stay car park where it looped around the far end of the car park! No way was I standing in a queue and what would getting back to Leeds be like? We decided to revise plans (which had been made following advice to leave the car at home, take the train etc.) and get a refund on the unused tickets which meant another queue but we did get our money back. We took the bus back to Morley and watched the TdF on TV!
Sunday saw us up again at 6am and driving towards Middlewood and the Park & Ride car park. It was almost empty when we got there so we sat and read for an hour before getting the shuttle bus to Oughtibridge. As we had been up early we then recharged with a bacon roll ( a bargain, £2 for 3 large rashers of bacon) and then we headed up the hill to bag a space roadside and watch the cyclists coming up a steep hill. After a little bit of wandering up and down the road we found a good place, cleared the nettles and sat down to do a lot of people watching. Just down the road was a campsite area which also had food vans so I explored and had an ice cream and then bought a couple of (real) coffees and brownies which we well received when Paul saw them approaching. While were we waiting, it was fairly sociable chatting to folks nearby and just watching the world go by.
Before the caravan passed by, the ‘cadets’ cycled by. This is a group of about 15 riders, aged between 16 and 19 years, who set out up to 3 hours before the main race and ride the first and last 30km of the route - and some were girls as well! They were only doing the UK stages as they came from a British Cycling programme. Then there is the caravan, but they did not throw much stuff out at our place. Eventually the riders arrive. This time there was a big bunch then a few gaps and more bunches; it was hard to take photos but I managed some and was really pleased with the one with Kittel in the yellow jersey in the centre. The crowd were well behaved (loads of marshalls ensuring this) and cheering loudly for every rider. Once the last rider passed we headed back down the road, only to find a lone rider from Lampre still coming up the road, cheered very loudly by the crowd!
It was slow getting back down the road as team vehicles were coming up as well as thousands making their way down. Once in Oughtibridge we decided to walk back to the car - about 3km - as the queue for the bus was becoming quite long, and with the volume of people walking down the road to the car park or trams vehicles could not move on the road (actually, not helped by all the cars which had parked along the road, partly on the pavement so there was little room to walk on the pavement so we had to walk on the road). This was a bit of ‘speed walking’, maybe we should enter an event for walking fast, dodging prams, slow walkers, cars, buses etc?
Needless to say the road we wanted to take out of Sheffield was not open as the TdF had come down it but the marshalls said it would be in about 20 minutes. We found a fast food place, had something to eat and then an easy journey up to East Witton in the Dales.
So, how did we feel about the experience? I am pleased that we went to see the TdF in Yorkshire. There had been huge underestimates of the numbers who would come to spectate and the transport system could not cope. We wish we had driven on Day 1 as the roads into Leeds were quiet! Day 2 worked out well. It is a long time at the side of the road for a fairly quick glimpse of the riders but you know that beforehand. If I was in France and it was going through a mountain stage then I might go for another look.
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