I have achieved a kind of bicycling. The cycling scene in England is haunted by professional racing, hills, Yorkshire, social media – and pretentious coffee.
And a few weeks ago, I started off the undulating route in West and North Yorkshire of the Road Road World Championship 2019 with a small coffee roaster called Ben I met on Twitter.
Over the past five years, Yorkshire has become a global cycling destination. When Ben and I, and another Twitter acquaintance named Tom, walked out of Otley, north of Leeds, there were dozens of other riders out of town, up Wharfedale toward Bolton Abbey.
None of them are in an organized group – just people and twos, including quite a lot of children and teenagers.
I suspect many of them are doing what we planned: a 200km stretch of the male elite race, involving a long loop from the north from Otley to Hawes, to the east of the Buttertubs pass, and then head south past Ripon to end at Harrogate.
I mentioned my plan to the native Otley and 2015 world champion Lizzie Deignan. If I press a little it shouldn’t take more than six hours, I said. There was a silence. I thought you might have underestimated that, she answered.
I find it difficult to find volunteers to keep me company. I asked the local Otley club. For most of us, Bit Bits is too much for us. I was not discouraged. I should not have been.
The explosion in Yorkshire cycling has occurred by accident. In 2014, the Tour de France started in Leeds, after Yorkshire stole the Grand Depart from under the nose of a rival Scottish contractor – for the most part, so the story happened, because the CEO of Welcome to Yorkshire, Gary Verity, flew to Paris in a charter helicopter and brought the Tour’s top brass back to Yorkshire for lunch at the pub.
On the eve of the Tour de France 2014, cycling fans went on the path of Kidstones or Côte de Kidstones, a challenging climbing race.