As the nation catches the yellow fever at Le Tour Yorkshire, GLUE camps out at Rapha Tempest festival in the England’s heartland to join 2.5 million fans lining up the country roads.
Le Tour Yorkshire didn’t feel real to us until in May, two months before Tour de France kicked off on 5th July. It suddenly dawned on us that Le Tour will never pass this way again until a very long time. We started to organise around the tour with a few cycling friends.
After some researching, we chose Rapha Tempest festival luxury camping at Broughton Hall in Skipton. It had cost us a little bit more than the other options, but all we had to do was to travel up and join the cycling tours on offer. The tent was set-up for us including amenities. Broughton Hall in Skipton was also an ideal location to see the two Grand Depart routes within a cycling distance.
Rapha Tempest Festival at Broughton Hall
We arrived at Broughton Hall at 7.30pm after over four hours of driving from London. The stunning vision that greeted made us forget about the horrible traffic jams on the way up. There were rolling green hills and clean horizons without tall buildings as far as the eyes could see. For 15 minutes or so I had a real Wuthering Heights moment. Great poetries and plays were set against this backdrop. Yorkshire has certainly earned its nickname “Gods Own Country”. It’s nothing like the Dante’s hell I left behind in London.
Our tent is an 11-metre square floor space of white canvas. It was very simple, with a twin mattress, a musette of goodies and Rapha’s luxury toiletries. The luxury area had decent showers and toilets. The complimentary Rapha Tempest cycling cap was a real winner with the campers. It was well-designed and really stood out amongst other cycling caps.
“There were rolling green hills and clean horizons without tall buildings as far as the eyes could see. For 15 minutes or so I had a real Wuthering Heights moment”
I was a bit apprehensive about the catering beforehand. My travelling companion Simon said: “I’m relying on Rapha to feed me.” True enough, my worry was unfounded. We had many options of coffee and artisan beer. Simon was a big fan of Mutley Crepes, while I found the creole curry at Chilli Koko pretty sensational. There was also The Bull, a really nice gastro pub nearby. The Rapha café was a hit at breakfast, serving good coffee and hot porridge for the riders.
The Rapha Tempest festival provided a relaxed camping environment. However, switching off from the outside world is a matter of choice for the campers. The first thing they had asked when they arrived was where to charge their mobile phones. I made a mental note to try harder to unplug in the future.
“The internet and mobile network in the dales are either unpredictable or non-existent”
Unfortunately, the festival organiser and the riders relied heavily on online technology when it comes to communications. The internet and mobile network in the dales are either unpredictable or non-existent. Visitors who didn’t print the programme in advance had to rely on the Rapha’s H-van for the latest information. The Strava Ride routes also couldn’t load up properly because of this problem.
Simon was annoyed that he missed a few races to compete in. A simple, huge notice board would have fixed the communication issues on the ground easily. However, the festival stewards were friendly and helpful. The Strava team were really accommodating and let me used their wifi to do some tweet reporting on the tour. The lesson to be learned here – paper map is still king.
Luckily, cyclists are excellent at being self-occupied. When some of the rides were cancelled due to bad weather, they organised their own mini rides, or watched the World Cup at The Bull pub (do try their baked hake and hot parkin dessert). We were never bored at the festival. I enjoyed the bicycle films shown at the festival, although at times they were interrupted by the sound of the live bands from the park opposite.
One of the best experiences I had at Rapha Tempest was watching the races on a huge screen with other riders. The organiser had successfully created a stylish cycling village, without the hipster feel. The campers were of all ages – from trendy young riders, to middle-aged couples and families with kids. I didn’t see a single unhappy child at the camping ground. A father who is also a rider told me: “My kids are so happy out here”.
Towards the end of the weekend, the weather gods smiled down on Yorkshire and gave the sunniest welcome to Le Tour.
We left the campsite with heavy hearts. I was getting used to not checking my emails. In fact, we had the most restful sleep when the rain was pounding on our tents in the middle of the night. Simon really loved the challenge of the hilly climbs, while I started to think that our roadside arguments about (my) cycling techniques was a constructive thing. I would consider attending a cycling festival like this again.
Following Le Tour Yorkshire in Skipton
We used Rapha Tempest festival ground at Broughton Hall in Skipton as the base to follow Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the tour. Yorkshire is the perfect location for all-level of cyclists. It is the home ground of world-class British riders such as Brian Robinson, Lizzie Armitstead, Malcolm Elliot and Ed Clancy. The county beat strong contenders such as Barcelona and Florence to become the host of the 101-year old racing event.
Simon and I decided to join 2.5 million cycling fans to see Tour de France along the country roads. For those who don’t understand the race, it looks a lot like waiting for hours to see famous riders speeding fast for one minute. It is a lot more than that.
Organising a cycling tour around the Tour de France is the most authentic way to enjoy the race and gain the insight of the actual routes. It gives you a tiny glimpse of what the tour riders go through – the beautiful landscapes, the villagers’ excitement and the treacherous hills to compete on. For me, the most rewarding experience was planning our rides and cycling to the best spots in the countryside to see it.
At the Yorkshire Grand Depart, fans of all ages rode out together to cheer the race. Many turned up in their local cycling club gear and colours from all over the country. You get the sense that cycling is a major part of the British lifestyle.
The circus around the tour was amazing. Intelligent adults, including myself, were reduced to excited children when the tour vans showered us with plastic goodies and packets of Haribos. The blatant cheesiness was pretty special.
“The circus around the tour was amazing. Intelligent adults, including myself, were reduced to excited children when the tour vans showered us with plastic goodies and packets of Haribos”
The locals were giddy with excitement, having a prestigious French tournament passing through their backyards. I don’t think they realised that Yorkshire was the exotic beauty that the world was looking at. They are too down-to-earth. While I was out riding, not one single motorists showed impatience towards me while negotiating the narrow roads in the hills. The warm English hospitality does exist, but you have to leave London to experience it.
I stopped at Dave Ferguson Cycles in Skipton to buy a helmet. The staff told me that business had been great for them. The tour has boosted the local economy by more than £100m. The local pubs and cafes were packed, supported by the cheaper beer price out here.
Simon, who was a former MTB race competitor, was happy with the riding challenges in Skipton. The Yorkshire dales tick the boxes for off-road and road cycling excursions. Be careful however, of what “flat” means in Yorkshire. The definition of flat up here is not the 0% flat as in The Mall in London. It generally starts from 3% to 5% gradients, with a regular appearances of 10% climbs. On my first day, we tried to do a short 17-mile Strava Ride that started at 14%. After two miles, the gradients didn’t get any lower. When the rain started to pound on us, I decided to abandon the excursion. I didn’t know which was scarier – climbing or descending down the “greasy” road at 40km/ph. I tried to not to look at the roadkills (which were mostly rabbits) along the farm roads.
On our way home from Bolton Abbey, we stopped for espresso at the Hambleton Cafe. The tiny roadside cafe is popular among riders and a welcome break after the hills.
Later I found out that Bernard Hinault had described the Stage 1 this year as the toughest Grand Depart in the history of the tour. It was certainly one of the most beautiful. I’m glad to have been a tiny part of it.
Zarina Holmes is the head of GLUE Studio, where she designs photography workshops and active lifestyle programmes. Simon Dudley is an MTB rider and cycling programme volunteer. See more photos of Le Tour Yorkshire on Instagram and our Facebook gallery.
Rapha Tempest Festival
Rapha Cycle Club
Le Tour Yorkshire
Le Tour de France
The Bull at Broughton
Welcome to Skipton
Dave Ferguson Cycles