Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Tour de France Comes To Yorkshire: A History of the Sport in the Dales

Image by ARG_Flickr

Yorkshire is arguably the home of British cycling. It’s therefore not hard to see why Yorkshire won its bid to host the Grand Depart this year. With countless cycling stars beginning their sporting careers in the dales of Yorkshire and numerous cycling organisations starting up in the county, Yorkshire has a rich history with the two-wheeled sport.

But what is it about Yorkshire that inspires people to get pedalling? Well, the challenging yet beautiful landscape surely has something to do with it. Cycling in Yorkshire is like trying to defy nature – as you battle through rain and wind, across hilly terrain, the ride certainly feels like a challenge. And it’s arguably this challenge that encourages the adventurous in Yorkshire to get out on two wheels.

Cycling Culture
But cycling in Yorkshire is also a cultural thing. The national cycling charity, CTC (Cyclist’s Touring Club) began in Harrogate. Originally, the BTC (Bicycle Touring Club), you’ll find a reminder of Harrogate’s place in cycling history near the St George Hotel, commemorating the beginning of the BTC on 5th August 1878.

As one of Britain’s first cycling clubs, the BTC was formed inside a Harrogate pub by Stanley Cotterell, who pedalled his penny farthing all the way from Edinburgh to meet like-minded people in Yorkshire. Ten years later it became the CTC, which is now the largest cycling organisation in UK, boasting 70,000+ members.

Unsurprisingly, since it was announced that the Tour de France was coming to Yorkshire, bike shops across the county have been buzzing with excitement, with an increased interest in the sport. To celebrate Yorkshire’s part in this year’s Tour De France, we examine some of the most famous cyclists from Yorkshire and the impact they had on British cycling.

Brian Robinson
As the first British rider to finish the Tour de France in 1955, Brian Robinson has earned his place in cycling history. He also has the impressive claim of being the first UK rider to win a stage at the Tour a few years later in 1958. Born in Mirfield, he went on to join Huddersfield Road Club when he was 13, training in Yorkshire before going on to compete internationally.

Victor Sutton
Famous for beating some of the greatest climbers in history (Charly Gaul and Federico Bahamontes), Victor Sutton took the cycling world by surprise. At 23, the Yorkshire-man took on the pair in the 1959 Tour de France, which was a staggering achievement, proving that British cyclists could compete internationally at the highest level.

Barry Hoban
Beginning in the Wakefield-based Calder Clarion Cycling Club, Barry Hoban went on to win 8 stages of the Tour between 1967 and 1975. This was a World Record for a British rider at the time and has only recently been beaten by Mark Cavendish.

Beryl Burton
Beryl Burton is not just one of Britain’s most impressive cyclists, but one of Britain’s greatest athletes. She dominated women’s cycling in the UK – winning 96 domestic championships. From Leeds, Beryl also went onto compete internationally with similar success, winning seven world titles. Plus, she set the record for the women’s 12-hour time trial, which exceeded the men’s record for two years. In later life, she moved to Harrogate, the finishing point of day two of the Grand Depart.

Malcom Elliot
Born in Sheffield, Malcom Elliot is one of Britain’s most successful riders, with an unstoppable enthusiasm for the sport. Despite the highlights of his career stretching back to the 1980s, he only recently stopped competing. Highlights include a Commonwealth gold medal, winner of Tour of Britain, competing in the Olympics and two successful Tour de France campaigns in the late 1980s.

Ben Swift
Moving on to more recent times, Ben Swift is a 25-year-old Team Sky and Team GB rider who began cycling in Rotherham. So far, he’s had numerous successes on the road including winning one stage of the Tour of California, two stages of Tour Down Under and one at Vuelta a Castilla y León.

Ed Clancy
From Huddersfield, Ed Clancy is a speedy sprinter and has already won World, Olympic and European titles on track. At the London 2012 Games, he took gold in the team pursuit and bronze in the individual event.

Lizzie Armitstead
A road and track cyclist from west Yorkshire, Lizzie Armitstead became a household name during the 2012 Olympics, winning the first medal of the games for Team GB. Her success continued after the Olympics, winning the Omloop van het Hageland and the World Cup a week later.

And lastly, there’s the favourite for this year’s Tour, Mark Cavendish – who’s not actually from Yorkshire but has strong links to the county. His mum is from the spa town, Harrogate and his uncle still lives there now. Because of this connection, winning the first stage from Leeds to Harrogate is his big goal this year.

With such a rich cycling history, it’s not surprising that the world’s greatest cyclists will be pedalling through Yorkshire this summer. Who’s your favourite Yorkshire cyclist? Share your thoughts below.