LE GRAND DÉPART? MAIS OUI!

Tour de France 13I don’t know which is the more depressing: seeing my hilariously captioned photograph getting precisely nowhere at the village produce show or reading the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s answers to the so-called Frequently Asked Questions re the Tour de France. I have worked out, though, which is the scarier. No prizes – where’ve I heard that before? – for guessing.
I do wonder how many people have actually rung up the National Park Authority to ask (once, never mind frequently): “Where can I swot up on my Tour de France knowledge?” or even “How many people will see the national park on TV?”? Nevertheless, the answer to the latter is quite enlightening: “A global tourism audience for a stage of over 40 million is not uncommon,” they write. I think they mean “A global audience of 40 million for one stage of the Tour . . .” but we’ll let that pass. Which brings me to the really scary and depressing bit, the numbers. I had fondly pictured a few determined young men in Lycra whizzing up the Dale on fancy bikes, and I have tried hard to convince myself this is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle that I must not miss. It is, after all, an event which has everybody else’s pulse racing faster than a Piranello, so why not mine?
Bainbridge parish council members discuss it endlessly – it’s a massive event for a small village on the route – and at the last meeting somebody quietly remarked: “Let’s not forget we’ll only see the actual cyclists for about 10 minutes. The rest will be vehicles.” What a ridiculous notion. . .
But no: here is FAQ number eight from the fact sheet: “What is the Tour Caravan?” Answer: “This is the long procession of sponsors’ vehicles – normally around 250-strong. It sets off around 2 hours ahead of the riders and makes its way slowly along the route, distributing freebies.” I especially like the “slowly,” like they’re going to have any choice.
And there’s more: “Apart from the riders, there is their support team, sponsors’ vehicles, TV and media vehicles, motorcycle support riders and motorcycle police, not to mention the helicopters flying overhead. In total, about 4,000 people.” As someone else has remarked, a total of perhaps 400 vehicles negotiating our narrow, winding lanes.
I know it was a great coup by Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, to bring this world event to our doorstep. I know cafes and restaurants and B&Bs and hotels and village shops will benefit from this mighty influx of visitors, not just now but in the future, as people worldwide see these beautiful Dales on their big screens and later come to see it for themselves.
But I have an FAQ of my own. I shall ask it frequently of myself every day between now and July, 2014: When they named this section of the race Le Grand Départ, was it really a hint to the locals? I might just act on it. And take my very funny photograph with me.

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One thought on “LE GRAND DÉPART? MAIS OUI!

  1. I clicked to say I liked this. I was especially impressed by your knowledge of top bikes. However, apparently I have to log in to WordPress.com, which led to my name or password not being recognised, etc etc and what was a happy reading experience led to meltdown and another Grand Depart mentally.

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