Friday, July 06, 2007

Oh yes, I cycled a bit you know...

Today the Tour de France starts in Trafalgar Square in that there London.

Wait a minute you foreign people shout, London isn't in France, why would the worlds most famous cycle race which, as its name suggests, tours France, start in London ?

Publicity, money and some more publicity is the answer, its not unusual for the Tour de France to spend a day or so in another country, they came to England once before a few years ago ("a few years ago meaning I can't remember when).

For anyone who has not seen a professional cycle race in the flesh then I recommend the experience if you ever get the chance - we've seen the Tour de France in France many years ago but we also used to attend the South Yorkshire stages of the Kellogs Tour of Britain - the steepest climbs on that section were in the Penines (Englands highest hills), doing Holme Moss and Snake Pass on two circuits, we decided to take up a vantage point at the top of Snake Pass reasoning that the riders would be knackered by then having previously done Holme Moss too - we saw the entourage of cars advancing up the long winding pass before usand I thought that they seemed to be travelling quite fast, within seconds they and the cycle peloton had zoomed past us riding faster uphill then I dared to ride downhill, and then half an hour later after another circuit the same thing happened - amazing.

But of course I've done a bit of cycling myself, oh yes, I still have my Dawes Tourer in the garage, lying where I threw it when we moved in here.

The tales of my cycling exploits are many and usually involve pubs halfway along the route and include the annual 70 mile ride from Wetherby to Scarborough when one year I fell asleep on a roadside grass verge outside a pub and I finished 1492 out of 1500 .

Or the time that Ned and I went on a cycling/camping holiday to France and he forgot his passport, rode through four passport checks without it and I was the one who got stopped by a gendarme when Ned had my passport 50 yards down the road and peddling fast.

Or the time that I did a sponsored cycle relay ride from Leeds to Copenhagen (Denmark) with a team of West Yorkshire's finest police officers and on the first day in Holland we lost two of them, when I say lost them I really mean lost them - they were found dossing down in a police station outside Rotterdam in the early hours of the next morning by which time we had crossed over into Germany and someone had to drive back for five hours to collect them.

But the funniest thing that happened was when a group of us were heading out in the Yorkshire Dales to spend a night in a pub way out in the back of nowhere, heading down a very steep hill (very slowly for me, I never liked going downhill) the rest of the group passed me at high speed until they came across a sharp turn to the right halfway down the hill - later they all confessed that they had all shit themselves when they saw the bend and all admitted that they'd only just made the turn - except Pete.

Pete never saw the bend at all, he was slipstreaming someone else and just staring at their back tyre, as you do when you are one inch away from the bike in front and travelling at 40mph - when the bike in front suddenly veered sideways Pete looked up to see not the road that he had expected to see, but a dry stone wall coming up very fast at him.

Fortunately for him the council had dumped a big pile of roadsalt halfway down the hill for winter use, right on the bend and as I slowly made my way down the hill, brake pads burning under the strain of keeping my speed down to scardey-cat range, I had a perfect view of Pete riding up the mound of salt and then becoming airborne, clearing the top of the dry stone wall by a good four feet.

The next few seconds took hours to complete and resembled the final scene from ET as Pete flew ever upwards, crying in fear but for some strange and still unknown reason, still peddling.

The field in which he landed banked steeply downwards from the wall and he landed in a crumpled heap some 30 or 40 yards into the field, cycle wall jumping should be an olympic sport, it looks hilarious when viewed from behind but more importantly Pete would bring all the medals home for Gt Britain.

It was't very funny for Pete though as he received concussion and dislocated his shoulder and had to spend two days in hospital, but what the hell, it was still funny watching it from behind no matter what anyone else says.

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