A Day in the Life of a Tour Maker
by Bernard Foster
Yes, I know, this is not a running related article, but many Abbey Runners have been caught up in the Tour de France and at least five were Tour Makers – Roger Wilson, Mark Hetherington, Bina Bhatia, Andy Wicks and myself. Any more? If I’ve missed you out, let me know and I’ll add your name.
On the Saturday I had intended to go with my son to Ilkley but, in one of those increasingly frequent senior moments, we got on the wrong train and ended up in Harrogate. No problem though as the atmosphere was great, the weather superb, and the big screen brought us all the action before the riders appeared in person.
So on to Sunday – a 5am start is not something I have every day, but was necessary on this occasion for me to get to Harrogate High School by 7 o’clock. This was to be the culmination of several months of preparation. Well, when I say “preparation” it was fairly minimal: an online application, a few online modules to complete, a “rally the troops” event at the Arena and a session at Elland Road where we were issued with our uniform – nice shirt, nice raincoat, nice cap, but the trousers….! Designed with Eric Pickles in mind I would say.
But let’s get back to the day of Stage 2. Here we were, a bunch of strangers all ready to help the public and charm them with our “Welcome to Yorkshire” smiles. On to the bus at 8am for a drive down an eerily empty A59 to Addingham – empty, that is, except for a few dozen cycling fans already taking up positions at the side of the road with camping chairs, flasks and even barbecues. They were going to have a long wait.
Addingham was very festive with barbecues, cake stalls and the odd hog roast as we made our way up to our respective stations. And the weather smiled on us too. I had hoped to be chosen as one of those flag marshals who stand at roundabouts with a yellow flag showing the riders which way to go, but I was pipped by a chap whose hand was quicker than mine.
While waiting for the race to arrive, some hours later, I was interviewed by Radio Leeds’s Johnny l’Anson, delivering his Sunday morning show from where the action was to be. I answered some questions he threw at me as best I could but, on listening to the iPlayer later on, I found that my interview had been edited out. I was quite relieved in a way, given the platitudinous twaddle I had spouted.
Then the caravan came along with what I can only describe as motorised cheerleaders attempting with little success to generate some mass hysteria among the crowd. Finally, the riders came and whoosh, it was over in less than a minute and we dispersed.
So what did I contribute to the event as a Tour Maker? Difficult to say really. We were supposed to be “the eyes and ears” of the Tour, reporting issues to the security staff, giving information to the spectators and generally playing a PR role. But in the event I had almost nothing to do except stand by the road and chat to spectators. I did have a front row view, though, and I brought away memories of a wonderful atmosphere and a spectacle which I may never see again. Oh, and I can keep the uniform as a memento. As for the trousers…….