Charlie Swinbourne: The day the Tour de France went past our house!

Posted on July 7, 2014

For weeks now, yellow bikes have been appearing at the side of the road in Yorkshire, not only in Ilkley, where I live, but also throughout the other towns nearby, ready to greet the cyclists competing in this year’s Tour de France.

Heck, a miniature yellow bike even found its way onto the sign above the local chippy.


Bunting coloured yellow, Green and White (with red dots) has been hung up outside houses all over the area – representing the various coloured jerseys the cyclists wear depending on what they’re good at.

It’s turned into a game my children play in the car – spot the yellow bike, or the bunting, as we drive through Otley, Pool, Addingham and throughout the Dales.

Many local cafes and restaurants have given themselves a facelift in anticipation of the crowds, with several extending their premises in anticipation of increased trade.

Farmers have evicted cows and sheep to convert their fields into temporary campsites, and schoolchildren have completed numerous projects connected to Le Tour, including decorating the outside of the local primary school which is just off the main road.

This morning, on finishing breakfast, my daughter simply said “Fin.” Everyone’s gone a bit French round these parts.

After all that build up, it was weird when Saturday eventually came. “We’re going to stop talking about it and actually see it?”

We live by the main road, so what is usually a slight annoyance (the rumble of traffic) became, for one day only, a big advantage.

The eerie bit, first thing in the morning was seeing the road empty, with people setting up chairs hours before anything was due to happen.


The volunteers helping people get around were as cheerful and friendly as their bright green clothing might suggest.


As the hours went by, the road gradually became busier with TV vehicles and amateur cyclists passing through. Luckily, it didn’t get so busy that my daughters couldn’t test out the route for themselves.


Soon, we had our own seats set up outside our front gate…


Then the sponsored vehicles arrived, throwing goodies into our hands (although we were all disappointed to miss out on Haribo!).


The magic of the tour is how it brings local communities together.

While waiting for the cyclists to arrive, we met neighbours we’d never met before, and amazingly, found out that the man a few doors away has a daughter who works in a deaf school and knows sign language. It’s a small world, this deaf one.


After all those months of build-up, the actual event passed through amazingly quickly.

Ok, so they’re just a bunch of guys on bikes, but the sheer number of elite athletes, all passing through at once, was truly awe-inspiring.



I’ve got a feeling that the local cycle shops will do a roaring trade this week (if I had a spare grand or two, I’d certainly go down there and pick up something far above my station), and that a region already known for its interest in cycling will see a spike in cycling club memberships.

A huge party down at the riverside park in Ilkley saw the carnival atmosphere continue for the rest of the weekend. (By the way, we were impressed that on one of the huge screens showing TV coverage of the tour in the park, the subtitles were displayed – kudos to them for including deaf folk!)

Twitter_CharlieBy Charlie Swinbourne. Charlie is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist (Guardian, BBC Online) and award-winning scriptwriter. His short film The Kiss was shown at Bradford International Film Festival in March, and his comedy Four Deaf Yorkshiremen go to Blackpool can now be seen on the BSL Zone by clicking here.

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