Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Dallying in the Dales-Previewing the Tour de France

 I have headed back to Old England for my "Photo of the Day" and I am sure there are a few of you thinking that I lead a boring life as I don't seem to be able to offer anything but images of my trip overseas last year. The fact is that Linda and I took over 2500 photos so when I am trawling through my albums it is more than likely I will come up with a photo from that time rather than any other. I will try to diversify in the future but I found this photograph of myself interesting for a number of reasons.

 It is taken in the Yorkshire Dales, a superb part of England, scenic, quiet, green and beautiful. The book and television series "All Creatures Great and Small" was set in the Dales although, having seen the telemovies and series I must say it doesn't do the area justice.

 It really enchanted us. It is different to the rest of England, at least the parts we saw and we saw a bit but there is something a little bit special, in fact magical about the Yorkshire Dales and we intend going back one day to explore the area in more detail.

 The photo in question was taken on the top of a large hill which took several minutes to drive up and as we got to the top we marveled at the spectacular scenery spreading itself before us like a vista and we decided to stop and breath and bathe in it's splendour.

 As you can probably make out from my dull and pasty countenance it was a very cold and wet day with an icy wind blowing through the hills and fields of the Dales but it seemed to give the area an enhanced aura with showers covering the distant hills and creating a serenity and peace which we much enjoyed.

 There are several reasons I have posted this shot the most notable being that I am wearing something other than that Goddamn red jacket that I seem to have worn for most of my time in England! I thought the picture was noteworthy for that alone but also for the bright red street posting box which seems to be incongruously stuck out in a very strange place. For those who don't know me I have a connection to Australia's postal service so I thought a shot of this box was an appropriate one.

 It would service all the local farmers of course but there is a very solid town only a few kilometres back down the hill which one would have thought would be more than enough for the local cocky's to use but Royal Mail has gone that extra mile for those who live outside of town.

 But there is another reason I have posted this photo and it is for the cycling enthusiasts who may venture onto this page thinking they may find something of value in my musings only to switch off after being very disappointed by my output. Today I have a surprise for you!

 I did know the Tour de France was spending it's opening days in Britain this year but I was completely ignorant as to the itinerary of those stages and little did I know I was traversing the very road were a large part of the opening stage will be held.  There were signs in little towns further on welcoming the Tour in 2014 and it soon clicked that not only was it a beautiful area but held some extra interest for me as a cycling fan.

I did of course peruse the internet that night and get myself up to speed on just where those opening days of this years "La Grand Boucle" will be held and I will be very excited when watching that opening day when I see the road on which we traveled being featured so very prominently in the race.

 The Tour stages which will be held in England have been heavily promoted by using current cycling superstar Mark Cavendish as a poster boy and that is fair enough as the "Manx Missile" as he is known is one of the greatest names in British cycling.

 The previews I have read of the opening day have all pointed to Cavendish likely being the leader of the race after the first day courtesy of his outstanding sprint finish which he should be able to unleash on the bunch at the end of the first stage.

 Unfortunately on this occasion I have to disagree with the pundits from the Tour de France publicity department.

 The hill on which I am standing in the first photo is a very long and steep climb. In fact we passed a cyclist as we came out of the town at the bottom of the hill and he was just beginning his ascent of the aforementioned hill and although Linda and I spent a good twenty minutes or so taking in the scene he still hadn't arrived by the time we had returned to the warmth of our sedan.

 I would be surprised if a fellow like Cavendish would be able to survive a tough climb like that although it is a long way from the finish and the bunch may not yet be flying. It is a very tough ride through th rest of the Dales and it would not surprise me if Cavendish arrives with the also-rans once the first shots of this year's race have been fired.

 As you may be able to see from the second shot I have posted, the hills keep rolling and it may be a pleasant ride on a nice day but when the pressure is on during a stage of the Tour de France, those not pre-disposed to riding uphill quickly may soon find themselves counting the wheels as they go past, desperately hoping they can hang on and get back to the bunch or at least survive to fight again the next day.

 There is actually a funny story attached to the second photo.

 The roads through this part of the Yorkshire Dales make for fantastic driving and whilst I wasn't speeding I probably was incautious given the wet conditions which we were experiencing. Linda expressed her reservations to me, feeling that I may be too confident in my ability to handle the car in such conditions on such roads if a sudden emergency came upon us.

 I of course shrugged off her concern, feeling that Sebastian Vettel could not do a better job on the day than me and we continued on our way, Linda no doubt chewing her lip and nervously clutching at her seat.

 We stopped once again to take a few photos and the road sign featured took my fancy as 16% is quite a gradient and it shows just how tough riding a bike through this part of the world could be for the unprepared.

 We got back in the car and continued on our way only to pass, at the bottom of this very hill, a car whose driver had obviously overestimated his or her own ability to negotiate the ground in such conditions and ended up ignominiously on it's roof on the side of the road.

 It was surrounded by police tape, the accident obviously having happened some time previously but it was a poignant reminder that if you don't know the road you should drive cautiously and comfortably. I slowed down from then on.

 The drive through the Yorkshire Dales National Park was delight and one of the endearing memories for Linda and I from our tour.

 I recommend the drive to anyone venturing to northern England. You won't be disappointed.

 Have nice day.. 

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