We’re up on what French TV is calling the Cote De Penistone, just outside Haworth – part of a crowd of a reported 65,000 local spectators who know it as Penistone Hill. Every shop, every house, every church, every pub has yellow bunting, a yellow jersey or a yellow bike. Taylor’s have brewed a special beer. A gentle hike via Bronte Waterfall and a three hour wait basking in the soft, kind sun. High-fives from Police outriders. The pre-race caravan chucking out freebies; obscure French yogurt brands and the much-coveted packets of Yorkshire Thé. An overzealous marshal – not helped by his Southern accent – gets the Shooting Stars Handbag treatment and ignored every time he tells us to get off the road. A Dutchman dressed as a nun trots past. A woman nearby getting texts of the progress from a friend watching in Australia. They’re in Addingham, they’re in Silsden, they’re in Keighley (big cheer). They’re on the famous Haworth pavé. Helicopters on the horizon and then overhead, dozens and dozens of Yorkshire flags waving skywards. And then they’re here – flashflashflash colour and legs and helmets and wheels, close enough to touch. The handlebar of a camera bike brushing my chest.
At the height of the Great Depression, my maternal grandmother must have done some of the Grand Départ route as she cycled from Sunderland to Keighley to find a job. She was 13, and did the ride in a day – on her own. And now here I am, one of a 3.5 billion global audience watching the riders and seeing the incomparable beauty of Yorkshire in her best hat and dress. The proof that Yorkshire’s nickname of God’s Own County is well-earned, and not just a trope from pub bores and professional Tykes. The show moves on to conquer the Cote De Cockhill and we leave the moor to the skylarks and the sheep and bent trees of Intak Farm. That evening a local radio presenter remarks with pride on how all 65,000 of us took our litter home.