Tour de France: the last gasp

‘I’ll bet’, ventured a friend the other week, ‘that the last few of those yellow bicycles don’t disappear from sight until round about Christmas’.  I didn’t take her on.  My own bet is that just a few of those yellow bikes, which so many people put outside their homes to celebrate the Tour de France in early July, will still be around many years from now .  Most have gone of course.

Little by little, in the weeks after the Tour, the bunting came down, then those miles and miles of hand-knitted jerseys, then the yellow bikes.  Now that Autumn winds are kicking in, all the bright yellow floral displays, often cascading from the panniers of those yellow bikes, are finally being grubbed up too.

A few of the photos of the pre-Tour preparations
A few of the photos of the pre-Tour preparations

As far as Harrogate was concerned, the Tour de France Swan Song took place last week, in the form of an exhibition mounted by the Harrogate Photographic Society, ‘Le Tour in Harrogate’.  It took over the town.  The ‘hub’ – a term borrowed from the Tour itself to indicate where the main action was to be found – was in the exhibition space of town centre Saint Peter’s Church.  But there were satellite exhibits in a local café, an optician’s shop, and in the windows of a recently closed department store.

When we visited last Sunday, we found ourselves in company with dozens of others, poring over the images, sharing memories, exclaiming over forgotten moments of the preparations for the race in the days and weeks before, and its aftermath, as well as the days of the Race itself.  There were pictures of old gnarled hands knitting away industriously to produce those yellow-jersey banners, of hi-viz-clothed teams of men road-mending late into the night beneath the glare of floodlights.  Here were the gardeners making sure Harrogate’s famous floral displays were at their best, or French members of the huge Tour de France preparation team taking time out to link arms, laugh and pose for pictures.  My favourite shot, taken on race-day itself was of two young men perched high on a chimney-stack looking down on the race far below them.  And then there were the scenes of riders disappearing from view, only seconds after they’d first come into sight.

I’ve taken my own photos of the photos.  Perhaps that’s a bit like the video which was said to have been offered for sale a few years ago by a dodgy salesman operating from a battered old suitcase at the corner of the market place.  It was ‘Jurassic Park’, filmed in a darkened cinema on a hand-held camcorder.  But these pictures shown here are just souvenirs.  If you want to see these wonderful images in all their glory, you’ll have to contact the Photographic Society, who have produced a fully illustrated souvenir catalogue.  We’ve ordered a copy.

A shot of the crowds enjoyng the party atmosphere before the riders arrived.   Just as visible  is Harrogate's skyline, reflected in the shop-window where this picture was exhibited
A shot of the crowds enjoying the party atmosphere before the riders arrived. Just as visible is a Harrogate streetscape, reflected in the shop-window where this picture was exhibited

I haven’t been able to credit individual images shown here as the photographers weren’t identified in this particular display.  These aren’t however so much reproductions of their work as impressions.  The photos themselves are well worth seeing in their original form. 

10 thoughts on “Tour de France: the last gasp”

  1. It’s so neat that, as fast as the racers zipped through, you all have been able to extend the fun and the camaraderie and the excitement! Will the Tour ever come through your area again? Or was that just a one-time deal?

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    1. Yup, I think Le Tour in Yorkshire was a one-time deal. Every country in Europe wants a look in! However, an annual Yorkshire Tour is now in the advanced stages of being planned….. Which will be great, but not QUITE the same

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  2. Thanks for such a wonderful and positive post. The exhibition in the church is down but about 30 of the photos are now in the library. Beales and the Edinburgh Wool Mill cafe are still on show, hopefully for a while yet. The director of the tour was very positive about a return, but whether that is to Yorkshire, the North of England or the UK is unclear. However those of us in the society who photographed the event are not really expecting to see Harrogate as it was that week again

    Richard

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  3. What a wonderful way of spending a few hours – I loved the energy in the photographs. We have a few empty shops whose windows feature local photographers work – nice that there aren’t blank, soulless eyes in the high street but sad that still so many premises are closed.

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