I arrived into Hull and sent my cousin Joanna a text. She was going to meet me there and drive me back to her place in Rise. I had a few minutes to spare so I went to the ticket office to see if I could organise a ticket for my bike and I from Leeds to London on Monday. Bizarrely the Leeds ticket office could only sell me a ticket on the day for an extortionate amount. As I was in the ticket office, Joanna arrived at the station and made her way over. I hadn’t seen her since her wedding about 18 months ago, apart from a few Skype calls. Her latest news was that she was expecting a baby, due pretty much on my birthday (which is extra special). It was great to see here again, looking great and just starting to show her 6 month baby bump. With my mission accomplished at the ticket office, we loaded my bike into the back of the car and set off for the countryside.
Rise is a lovely little country village where Joanna and her husband Steve make the most of country living. When we arrived, Steve was already cooking dinner and it was great to see him again too. Steve and I met for the first time when I came over for the wedding. We only spent a couple of days together, but we got along like old friends. After a quick (much needed) shower, we sat down outside in the evening sun to enjoy the first course, a rainbow Bruschetta. Steve calls it that because it is full of colour, including edible flowers from the garden. In fact most of the ingredients for dinner either came from the garden or the local village. While we waited for the main course, Steve took me on a tour of the impressive garden. Full of fruit trees, vegetable patches, greenhouses, edible flowers, the chook pen. He is very passionate about it and he certainly has a reason to be proud of it. We went inside for the main course, delicious roast pork from the local farmer served with greens and potatoes from the garden.
After dinner, we watched the World Cup quarter final match between Netherlands and Costa Rica. I was sure Netherlands would win easily, but Costa Rica were putting on such an admirable performance, it wasn’t long before we were all cheering them on. During the game Steve showed me his collectable World Cup sticker book too. He open a few more packs, fist-pumping when he got a player he needed to complete his set. At one point he lamented the fact he had nobody to trade with, which I thought was a little sad (albeit hilariously funny). We laughed at the suggestion of him hanging around school playgrounds looking for 10 year old boys… As the match carried on with a solid defensive display from Costa Rica, I thought Netherlands got a bit narky. Finally with the climax (or anti-climax) of a penalty shoot-out, Netherlands were through and Costa Rica were going home.
In the morning, I woke early to the sound of rain. Knowing it was a big day ahead, I had every intention of an early start, but procrastinated with a leisurely breakfast. The rain had stopped, but the grey skies still appeared gloomy with no sign of improving. It was probably about 8AM by the time I finally said goodbye and set off for York. Despite the wet roads, clouds overhead and drizzle, the ride from Rise to York was quite pleasant. I found my way onto one of the National Cycling Network routes, following it most of the way. I was going to struggle to make the start at the racecourse. I had already missed the caravan too, so I found a spot on the outskirts of the city near Clifford’s tower. I arrived just in time. There was already a huge crowd, so I made my way into the throng, pulled out my GoPro on a stick and watched the peloton whiz past. 10 minutes and it was all over, but I got to see the Tour de France again!
I’ve been to York a few times in the past, but not for at least 10 years. It’s a great old city. After the race had come through, I set off to explore. The city streets were closed to traffic, so riding the bike around once again was bliss. I stopped to ask some of the marshall’s where I could find the best coffee in York, but they were clearly tea drinkers. Eventually I found a little cafe that looked promising, so I sat down for a latte and refuelled with a second breakfast. Not far from the cafe I also found the Stone Roses bar, which probably has no affiliation with the iconic band, but was still pretty cool. I continued rolling around the city streets until I came to cool little bike shop cafe. At this stage by bike was in need of a little TLC. The makeshift repair to my rear brake was ok, but the lever had started sticking and I had pretty much worn through the brake blocks. I left it with them to work on it, while a took a seat in the cafe next door with a good view of the big screen showing the race. I noticed the couple sitting next to me were wearing matching “over 55 riders” jerseys with Aussie flags on the arm. Always glad to see a fellow Aussie I started up a conversation with them. They were from Perth on their annual European cycling holiday. They had been doing it for 10 years now going to different European destinations and cycling touring for 6 weeks at a time. They weren’t just over 55s either – they were actually in their 70s!
After the bike shop cafe, with my brakes now working nicely, I meandered through the streets of York to the racecourse where the race had started earlier that day. After the huge crowds of the day before, I was a little surprised to find the place pretty empty. There were 2 big screens showing the race, a few mercy stands, food vendors, sponsor displays, kids rides, but hardly anyone there. Maybe once the start was over (with the weather looking gloomy) most people decided to move on. I wandered around, watched the race for a bit, then decided to move on too. Finding my way back to Leeds was pretty easy. With a mixture of off-road cycle paths, deviations passing through villages and quiet country roads I followed the general direction of the York Road. Once back in Leeds, I made my way over to Grandma’s house. When I arrived the race was only a few minutes away from the end, so Grandma and I watched the finish together: the moment when Nibali stepped up to stamp his authority on the race with a stage win.
As soon as the race was over, I said goodbye to Grandma and left for my Auntie Val and Uncle Martin’s place in Pudsey, where I was staying for the night. Earlier in the day Joanna contacted me say I’d left my light at her place, so she would come down to her mum’s place and give it back to me. Although it wasn’t a deliberate ploy, it was a nice excuse to see her again. However, she had to leave at 6PM so I couldn’t be late. Despite taking a route through the village which took my up some pretty decent hills, my phone battery dying (along with the directions I was following) and having to stop to ask directions from some girls with horses I made it on time. We had a lovely home cooked meal together and in the end Joanna didn’t leave until 8! Val and Martin had been following the tour around too. Martin showed me some brilliant footage that he got of the riders coming through Addingham along with some of the entertainment that the town had put on for the event. Tomorrow the tour would leave Yorkshire and so would I, but it was great to see everyone get behind it with such enthusiasm and it was amazing to be a part of it.