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June 2014: Tour de France

With the Grand Depart of the Tour de France just three weeks away, our June meeting was a great opportunity to find out a little more about what this huge event will mean for us all.

Dee Marshall from Welcome to Yorkshire was our guest speaker and provided a fantastic insight into the months of hard work which helped to secure the Grand Depart for Yorkshire. She shared some of the more unusual aspects of the bid, including the fact that the Tour de France organisers had no idea where Yorkshire was (or even what is was – “is that a country?”) until the Welcome to Yorkshire team contacted them. After 5th and 6th July, hopefully many more people will know where we are and what our lovely region looks like!

As well as telling us about how the Yorkshire bid was put together, Dee explained that it became increasingly apparent that this would be an event on a scale never seen before in Yorkshire. It will be broadcast live in 190 countries around the world, with a global audience of 3.5bn. An impressive three million people are expected to come to Yorkshire to line the route of the Grand Depart, and the television audience means there could be millions more people visiting the region over the coming years after seeing our rolling hills and historic towns and villages on the footage. Following an investment of £10m to host the Grand Depart, Welcome to Yorkshire believes the return for the region’s economy could be at least £100m.

However, there are still some people who have not appreciated the scale of the event and Dee was keen to emphasise that it will cause disruption over the weekend of 5th and 6th July. However, she pointed out that unusual weather such as heavy snow often means things grind to a halt in Yorkshire. “The difference between us and being snowed in,” she said, “is were telling you it’s 5th July. You can plan ahead!”

Yet Yorkshire folk are creatures of habit, and Dee has dealt with several disgruntled locals who are deeply unimpressed at having to change their usual routine. Why shouldn’t they go to the supermarket on the Saturday morning as they do every week?!

However, the majority of people have been quick to embrace the Tour de France. Harrogate and the surrounding towns and villages are already looking suitably festive, with plenty of yellow bikes, bunting and shop fronts decorated for the occasion. The North Yorkshire West Federation of the WI, which Spa Sweethearts is part of, has also supported the Tour de Bunting project organised by Harrogate Borough Council which saw more than 23,000 mini knitted jerseys donated by people from around the world.

TdF collage

After Dee’s entertaining talk, we enjoyed the delicious French-themed Yorkshire ploughman’s buffet prepared by committee member Sue Warburton, along with some great wine and beer from

Ake & Humphris. There was also a chance to emulate the Tour de France cyclists (well, sort of) with an exercise bike challenge. We split into two teams – one named Yorkshire, the other France – and covered as many miles as possible during the evening. In the end, Yorkshire was the worthy winner, having completed 22.36km to France’s 21.23km. Everyone in Team Yorkshire was then entered into a raffle for the chance to win some beautiful bicycle mugs from Fodder.

Finally, there was a fancy dress competition on the theme of France. There were several berets on show and a number of stripy shirts, but in the end there could only be one winner and it had to be Rachel in her fantastic Eiffel Tower outfit.

It was a fantastic evening and certainly gave us all much more information about the arrival of the world’s biggest annual sporting event, and biggest free sporting event, on our doorsteps. Spa Sweethearts members will no doubt be celebrating in style in July!

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