It's Ending In Paris - But It Began In Yorkshire!

A First View Of The PelotonAs I write, the surviving riders of the 2014 Tour de France are cycling through the suburbs of Paris before their final tussle on the Champs Elysees. It's perhaps a good time to reflect on how their epic journey, their race, began. As many residents of Yorkshire will testify to anyone who will listen, unbelievably, it started in our very own back yard. Three weeks yesterday, a Saturday, the Grande Departe took place in Leeds with a procession to Harewood House. The early morning was dull and damp but it steadily brightened and, minutes before the peloton passed me in Alwoodley, the sun peeped out and shone unerringly for the next two days. As already reported, the following day it swept through my very own village of Oxenhope. What a day! Everyone, even the doubters, were swept away by an event not quite the same as anything we'd seen before.

Matthew Busche (Trek)

On down to Cambridge and London for Stage Three and then they were gone, leaving us all breathless. And now? At times it's difficult to believe it really happened. There are still a few yellow bicycles in gardens, strands of bunting. This morning, on a commemorative cycle up Penistone Hill, several surviving road paintings also served to show that, yes, it really happened.

A fitting culmination to this memorable Tour de Yorkshire month came for me at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Thursday for the penultimate performance of Beryl. Written by Maxine Peake, it tells the story of Beryl Burton, a cyclist from Morley. She was a national, international and world champion in so many cycling categories during a time when cycling wasn't popular and sportswomen were not given the recognition or rewards they deserved. The four actors, playing a whole range of characters, were able to generate a unique atmosphere that had us weeping and laughing in equal measure. It felt slightly weird but so right to be applauding sporting achievements that had actually occurred decades before. The final performance was on Friday but it can't end there. Ok, not everyone will be gripped by the same pride for a local Yorkshire hero but this is a story with wider appeal. It deserves to tour (pun intended) and would make a great film.

Undoubtedly, in addition to her achievements, Beryl's story serves to show that there's a rich tradition of cycling in Yorkshire - a story which will have played its part in attracting the Tour de France to the county. Whatever happens from now, it's been an epic summer in these parts. And, through Maxine Peake, those four actors and all at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Beryl played her part.

Above: My first view of the cyclists in Alwoodley, Leeds and Matthew Busche, race leader on Penistone Hill, Oxenhope. You can see more of my TDF Experience here.

They're on the Champs Elysees now. Got to go …