Colour Piece: Pursuing the Peloton

One solid row of abandoned vehicles filled the entire length of the narrow road leading steeply down into the small village of Low Row. An unfamiliar sight for the folk around these parts, ‘a sight more familiar in’t that there London’ chuckled a broad voiced Yorkshireman to his friends. The sun, right on queue, was beaming down on the patchwork fields of the picturesque Yorkshire Dales illuminating all of the vivid summer colours for this momentous occasion. Locals had obviously been busy prior to the event, with freshly painted yellow bicycles and spotted bunting hanging outside of their cottages. As if not to be outdone by their surroundings, the spectators were turning up in there hundreds, dressed in brightly coloured outfits in keeping with the event. Most of which could be found outside the front of ‘The Punch Bowl Inn’ enjoying a refreshing pint of real ale whilst soaking up the rare rays of sun.

Peter Yates, a fireman from Catterick, was one of these spectators, he explained to me: “We’ve really been looking forward to this day since we found out the tour was coming to our doorstep. We thought it was worth making the effort to come and witness the event for ourselves rather than just watching from home on the television, after all, its not everyday the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire.”

John Stainton, a farmer from Gunnerside was stood further down the road away from the crowds, leaning against a dry stone wall on the perimeter of his field that overlooked the race route. He told me: “I haven’t seen owt like this round here before. Everyone looks like they’re having a laugh so that’s great, as long they all bugger off by tomorrow so I can get me tractor down’t lane, that would be grand.”

‘Peoples eyes were fixated on the ‘Buttertubs Pass’ section of the race far in the distance’ — top left

As the time ticked by, you could feel the excitement building in the air. Peoples eyes were fixated on the ‘Buttertubs Pass’ section of the race far in the distance, trying to catch their first view of the peloton making its way down into Swaledale.

All of a sudden the sound of music could be heard getting louder and louder in the distance and there was a brief moment of confusion mixed with anticipation before a series of extravagant vehicles proceeded to pass by, blasting music from their speakers and waving to the crowd. The crowds initial amusement quickly turned into unbearable anticipation for the main event after half an hour or so of various companies vehicles passing by, promoting their products.

The floats began to be replaced with team cars, rammed full of spare bikes and the crowd knew it was only a matter of time before they would catch their first sight of the Tour de France in Yorkshire. The decibel levels started to rise as spectators pointed out the appearance of the broadcast helicopter approaching above as if to confirm the arrival everybody was waiting for.

A ferocious roar of excitement boomed out from the usually peaceful village of Gunnerside in the distance and everybody knew they were here! Cheering and clapping commenced, Union Jack flags began to be waved frantically and some spectators scrambled onto the closest object they could find to gain a better vista of the incoming peloton. One of these objects was John Stainton’s dry stone wall that he had previously been leaning against and I couldn’t help but think how he wouldn’t be too impressed with what I was witnessing. However, that thought was abruptly interrupted by the arrival of the peloton whizzing past in union. Although comprised of approximately 100 individual cyclists, it felt more like one large well-oiled machine motoring on by. And before you could really stand back and admire the multitude of different colourful components that created this unit, it was gone!

The peloton passes through Swaledale as spectators scramble onto the dry stone wall for a better vista.
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