Le Tour de Yorkshire
Now, I’m not a huge fan of cyclists. Usually if I’m going anywhere I’ve timed the journey to the minute, so any kind of delay jeopardises the chances of me arriving on time. Admittedly, this is somewhat of an error on my part and I should learn to leave a bit earlier just in case there’re any unforeseen circumstances. However I maintain that I’d be on time for every appointment were it not for two things.
Firstly: tractors. Being a country bumpkin, encounters with these mechanical tortoises are common and not unexpected. Personally, I think they should be banned from the road during rush hour.
Secondly: cyclists. They are literally everywhere these days. The surge in number combined with the fact that I’m generally travelling along winding, single track roads (that country locale again), means that every journey I go on tends to involve me crawling along behind them, waiting for the chance to pass once there’s a sufficient gap in oncoming traffic. The fact that I’m usually travelling to a tight schedule means this is, more often than not, an infuriating experience.
So, with this in mind then, you’d think I’d probably view the Tour de France with something akin to disapproval, grumbling about the effect on traffic and its impact on people trying to go about their everyday business. In fact, this is what I expected to feel. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The British legs of the Le Tour over the weekend were mesmerising. Estimates believe that up to two million people lined the route. I wasn’t one, but having watched via the television I wish I had been. It was a brilliant spectacle, with the cyclists pushing themselves to the limit. Having recently done three minutes on an exercise bike (at a reasonably high level, in my defence) I can appreciate the fact that cycling is hard. Very hard. I’m not even sure what distance I travelled in those three minutes, but you can rest assured that it didn’t equate to the one hundred and eighteen miles covered by the Tour on the first stage, from Leeds to Harrogate. I have acquired something of an appreciation for cycling it would seem.
And so has everyone else by all accounts. Two million in attendance is a staggering figure and it doesn’t take into account the television viewing number. An audience of that size is a marketer’s dream, so as you can imagine, many PR and marketing agencies were quick to get involved.
Perhaps the most eye-catching enterprise for me was the stunt undertaken to promote Yorkshire Building Society’s sponsorship of the Grand Départ. In a local farmer’s field, whose land fortuitously lay alongside the route of the first leg stage, one hundred and fifty sheep were dyed yellow in honour of the Tour’s famous yellow jersey.
Not only was this conspicuous – generating television, online and print coverage – it also struck me as quintessentially Yorkshire. Having lived in Leeds for three years during my time at university, yellow sheep just about sums up the county’s droll sense of humour. Kudos to Velvet PR for that one.