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Follow the brown signs

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Tour de France Grand Depart – like the Tour de France but with some Yorkshire in it

This year the Tour de France will begin in Yorkshire. My dad’s been obsessed with sweaty men in lycra puffing their way up French mountains (or “Alps” if you will) for as long as I can remember so I pricked up my little ears when the news was announced last year. I’ll admit to snoring off however when I was told that my ’90s favourite, Miguel Indurain, wouldn’t be making an appearance. Apparently he’s too old, which was distressing because he was about the only thing that got me through those long hours of non-turn-offable coverage that my dad was glued to. The competitors who aren’t too old will be cycling 190 miles around from Leeds to Harrogate for the first stage on the 25th of July 2014, passing through some of Yorkshire’s most amazing scenery including the bloody-ruddy tear-inducingly beautiful Yorkshire Dales (which I loved but also screamed my way across during the pain-offensive that was Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk a few years ago).

Cycling has been enjoying a huge revival of late. With it’s green credentials, positive health benefits and minimal price tag  it has now become socially acceptable for men to walk into pubs wearing offensively snug attire with not a point or jeer from fellow punters in sight, sometimes I even serve them a pint, I’m no cyclist-ist I’ll have you know. This is of course a good thing which society is wholeheartedly embracing, so viva the cycling revolution!

Yorkshire grand departAlready the excitement for this event is palpable, even with people who don’t really get it (like me), especially given the impressive cultural festival that accompanies the countdown which is pulling in the crowds already, check out the full listings on the extensive Tour website here. With the cameras of the world all pointing to Yorkshire the hosting of the Grand Depart will certainly help showcase the county’s beauty, which is a very good thing, but most exciting for me is the introduction of new brown tourist signs lining the route of the first stage between Leeds and Harrogate. Woo hoo! A whole load of them, a clutch of them… no actually, I’m christening the collective noun for a group of brown tourist signs… a PANDEMONIUM and that’s exactly what exists on North Yorkshire’s roads for the Grand Depart, you lucky lucky Yorkshiremen you! Pretty cool huh? Brown sign spotter and mini-golf champion The Putting Gott alerted me to the new signs so after I’d finished making up a whole new collective noun I started doing some research…

After the usual mass confusion and passing around of my unusual enquiry I was eventually told that James Gilroy of the Highways Department in North Yorkshire County Council was the man in the brown-sign-know and he told me this: “The brown signs are permanent as part of the legacy of the event.  We want to encourage road users to be in a position to follow the TdF Stage 1 route within North Yorkshire, both in advance and after the event. The benefits are primarily for visitors, the local population generally has a good idea where the race route is!  As the race route is widely publicized, it is very much a resource on the road to assist road users along the route.  We recognize that the race route is not just for cyclists – and that leisure drivers will like to follow where they have seen the pro cyclists either on the day or watching at home on TV.”

When I’d calmed down from a bout of American Spelling Rage I thought I’d share James’ words on the blog and maybe even inspire a few of you to pull on some spandex/lycra/spats/whatever and cycle the route of the Yorkshire Grand Depart like the pros (not Miguel Indurain through remember) yourself. Those hardcore cycling dudes probably know the way already but now you don’t have to, you can just!