Forget the cloth cap cliches - Yorkshire has embraced Le Tour

A 'Banksy style' stencil of Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker riding a bike near the Workstation, Sheffield
A 'Banksy style' stencil of Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker riding a bike near the Workstation, Sheffield
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From pork pie bicycles to polka-dotted sheep, Yorkshire is gearing up to make the most of the prestigious arrival of the world’s most famous cycle race this weekend.

The cliche-mongers might be wetting their lips with the prospect of referencing cloth caps and whippets, Yorkshire puddings and curmudgeonly local yokels, but Yorkshire could not seem to care less for all the predictable clumsy stereotypes.

The University of Sheffield has painted a giant bike - almost twice the size of the famous Cerne Abbas Giant - on a hillside to celebrate the Tour de France's arrival in the city and the work of a Nobel Prize winning scientist.

The University of Sheffield has painted a giant bike - almost twice the size of the famous Cerne Abbas Giant - on a hillside to celebrate the Tour de France's arrival in the city and the work of a Nobel Prize winning scientist.

After all, those who consider incongruous the notion of the Tour de France starting in Yorkshire ought to know that when it comes to two wheels the county is certainly no Cav-come-lately.

It was a Yorkshireman, Brian Robinson, who set the example for the likes of Chris Froome and Sir Bradley Wiggins to follow when he became the first Briton to win a Tour stage in 1958.

Furthermore, in 1982, when Choppers and Grifters clogged the back-lanes and EPO was still a robot out of Star Wars, the stalwarts of ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ took to the hills above Holmfirth in a seminal episode of the BBC sitcom entitled ‘A Bicycle Made For Three’.

When it hits the Holme Valley town somewhere around half past two this Sunday, the peloton is unlikely to encounter the same predictable fate which befell Compo, Clegg and Foggy as they careered towards a T-junction on their home-made triple-tandem.

A slogan written in Yorkshire slang which has been painted on the roads of the Yorkshire Stage 2 route of the Tour de France near Sheffield

A slogan written in Yorkshire slang which has been painted on the roads of the Yorkshire Stage 2 route of the Tour de France near Sheffield

But the ghosts of the world’s longest-running sitcom will doubtless be out in force along with thousands of others to watch those smooth lycra thighs sweep through a region which will always be best known for an obsession with Nora Batty’s wrinkled tights.

Those old Raleigh relics have been hauled out of garages and stuck up on shop-fronts and end-of-terraces having been proudly embossed in their new spray-painted coats of yellow.

Shots of the polka-dotted sheep - as well as their yellow and green equivalents - from a farm in Killinghall went viral after being posted on social network sites.

Knitted bunting flaps in shop-fronts and breweries along the route have rushed out special ales to mark the occasion, including Theakston’s ‘Tour de Wot?’, named in honour of an elderly local’s reaction to news the historic race was heading for Yorkshire.

Foodies will have a field day: in Hawes, the riders will whizz past the Wensleydale Creamery, fromagerie of choice for Wallace and Gromit, themselves no strangers to two-wheeled escapes albeit in general with a motor and sidecar attached.

In Harrogate, a local sweet shop has created a 24lb lemon jersey coconut ice aimed at spurring on adopted local hero Mark Cavendish. Not to be outdone, a butcher’s in Ripon has produced a bike made entirely of pork products, which features “pork pies for wheels, belly pork for brakes and a chipolata bike chain”.

The economic side-effects of Yorkshire’s hosting of the Grand Depart are said to be likely to run to nine figures. Legacy commitments include the establishing of an annual international cycle race in the region, and a push to get as many as possible of the region’s youngsters on two wheels.

The legacy for those munching through giant-sized confectionery and chipolata bike chains may not be quite so sleek.

But for this weekend at least, Yorkshire will pay no heed of health warnings or last of the summer whines as it prepares to consign its cloth-cap cliches to the back of the cupboard for good.