I couldn’t resist – I just had to see how other parts of Yorkshire were preparing for Le Tour de France! (Not a sentence I expected to write a year ago!) So we hopped in the car for a drive round as much of the area as we could reasonably manage in one day. It was a bit of a zig-zag, following our own route, and crossing freely over from Day One to Day Two sections. (How wonderful that there is so much beautiful scenery to detain the riders for two days!)
In Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which is a little off the route, the cafe owner was unsure how he would be affected – would no-one visit that weekend because they were worried about road closures, or would there be a mad scrum for bacon butties?
In Hawes, which nestles near the foot of Buttertubs Pass (or Côte de Buttertubs as the official route describes it!), has festooned itself in bunting to welcome Le Tour. In recognition of the fact that Côte de Buttertubs is one of the categorised climbs on the route, and therefore counts towards the King of the Mountains jersey, the village has gone polka dot mad! Shops have been painted white with red spots, all the bunting is spotty and flower pots are themed red and white. It is very cheery and welcoming.
We then headed up the Buttertubs Pass ourselves – by car! There were a few brave cyclists tackling the climb, but even at the lower part of the steep ascent they were struggling, and some had to give in to pushing. It made you realise just how crazy fit the Tour riders are.
Due to a late start on our own tour, it was fairly late in the day when we arrived at the summit, and we had the place to ourselves. It was beautiful and wild, just us and a few sheep. I felt very lucky to be able to savour the views and the solitude. It was very difficult to imagine just how different the scene would be in a week’s time!
We munched a picnic tea (until beaten back by ferocious midges!) by the Buttertubs themselves, which are scarily deep limestone holes just metres from the road, and contemplated just how easy it would be for a rider to crash over a barrier and into one of those deep, deep holes. In fact, I have seen a programme about how the local mountain rescue team has been practising a rescue from one of those potholes (more concerned about a spectator than a cyclist, I think … but, still!)
We then wended our way backwards along the Tour route, past fields and farms and villages, with beautiful empty fells rising gloriously on either side of the limestone walls. And all along the route, our journey was punctuated by dots of yellow. Yellow bikes were perched on roofs, and yellow bunting fluttered from gates and windows.
Driving along the route, knowing that elite cyclists would be hurtling down these roads in a week’s time, made you look at them with different eyes. You really noticed how narrow some of the route is, and how twisty, and how steep are some of the hills – both up and down – and just how close are the unforgiving-looking stone walls!
Our favourite village was Bainbridge, where pale yellow bunting hung along every roof, and little t-shirts grew from one bush and mini knitted jumpers decorated one house. I didn’t get a picture as you couldn’t really capture the loveliness of the whole scene in one shot (and we were tired – it had been a long day!).
We made a final stop at Skipton, which was worth it for the church. All the grounds were full of yellow bunting and a giant t-shirt decorated the tower!
I am now full of Tour de France spirit. Allez, allez!