If you were fortunate enough to catch the Tour de Yorkshire on any of its race days, you’ll have been caught up in a frenzy of excitement, competitive spirit, camaraderie and a more general sense of ‘all is well with the world.’ There’s just something about the stunning, sweeping vistas of Yorkshire, punctuated with stone walls and woolly sheep, that provide the perfect backdrop for a colourful peloton.
And whilst the scenery was out of this world, what made (and always makes) the Tour de Yorkshire magical is the eclectic mix of people who are brought together by the power of sport. There’s no denying the fact that sport empowers people; it gives people a sense of identity, a shared purpose, a feeling of hope and excitement.
No better a place was this in evidence than at the top of the Cow and Calf in Ilkely on Friday 4 May. The 90 minutes before the arrival of the professionals was the highlight of my TDY (and this includes my brief encounter with Mark Cavendish!). In these 90 minutes I witnessed a whole host of amateur cyclists challenge themselves to the 1.2-mile climb with a nasty 17% kick near the end, cheered on by the vast crowds lining the boards either side of the road.
There were cyclists from every walk of life: narrow-framed boys from Ilkley Cycling Club; MAMILs of all shapes and sizes; a man wearing a Freetrade Banana costume; dads towing toddlers in trailers; elderly couples on tandems; young children on tricycles; and women, many solo, on road bikes, on mountain bikes, and on basket and bell bikes.
The person that captured my imagine more than anyone else that day was a woman wearing a blue and white polka dot dress with the White Rose flag of Yorkshire draped over her shoulders. She was on a yellow bike with basket and was, what I can only describe as, a vision of decorum and grace. Unlike myself, who would have been sweating and swearing the entire way up, she drifted past me with ease, standing, in her polished pumps, with 10 feet to go, to give one last flourish before swinging her leg over and casually disembarking, disappearing into a sea of onlookers.
For me, this woman is symbolic of the strong, silent, power of women the world over. For me, this woman represents everything good about women who face difficulty but don’t complain about it, who experience pressure but don’t buckle under it, who compete but aren’t brash about it, who succeed but don’t shout about it.
For me, the image of this woman, an everyday woman riding a bicycle, is the defining moment of my Tour de Yorkshire. The message she gives to all of us is this; it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the right gear; it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the right bike; it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the right size or shape or look. The only things you need are courage and self-belief.
In front of hundreds of people, she sailed up a big mountain in a bike with no gears, wearing a dress. Could I have done this? I’m not sure. But, I’m glad she did. She is an inspiration and I celebrate her.