Little Smeaton and Kirk Smeaton, North Yorkshire’s most southerly villages, have a growing love affair with cycling, all thanks to the Tour de Yorkshire.

Yellow and blue sheep

Ever since the Grand Depart when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire and every year since of the TdY,  more and more people in the two villages, separated only by a bridge over the River Went, have taken up cycling.

But since the news that this year’s Tour de Yorkshire would be passing through Little Smeaton the whole community has gone into overdrive preparing to celebrate the race.

The fact Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France race director, is visiting the community later today (Wednesday 1 May) ahead of Thursday’s race is the icing on the cake.

“It’s brought the whole community of both villages together” said Gillian Ivey, chair of Little Smeaton parish council and a former North Yorkshire county councillor. “A lot of people cycle round here, people go to work on their bikes, or they are in local cycle clubs because the countryside and the roads are perfect for cycling.  We have the Smeaton Saddlebags in the village.  It’s a bit more like Sunday cycling and mostly ladies, but it gets us out and about and it’s great fun. The fact the Tour de Yorkshire  is actually coming through here is giving the whole thing a boost.”

North Yorkshire County Council is busy making final preparations for the race route”, chief executive Richard Flinton said: “North Yorkshire is home to world class cycling events and is securing its place in the global map for its breathtaking scenery and hearty welcome. It’s inspiring to see how this one community alone has embraced every aspect of the opportunity the Tour de Yorkshire presents.”

“People have really gone to town”, said Gillian Ivey. “The parish council gave £500 for the celebrations and yellow and blue painted bikes and bunting are everywhere, we’ve got peleton cut-outs, we’ve got cyclist scarecrows all along the road, our local farmer has sprayed the sheep blue and yellow, people have donated loads and given lots of their time. 

“The parish council has given over 100 blue and yellow baseball caps for the school children to wear when they watch the race coming through. Our local pub, the Shoulder of Mutton, is holding a hog roast for the whole village including the school children after the race has passed on.  

“We’re all now wondering what we can do next as a community when the Tour de Yorkshire is over. It’s been such a fantastic experience.”

As well as spraying their sheep in the Tour de Yorkshire colours, Mel Ely who runs Little Smeaton’s College Farm with her partner Rodney Howdle, a fourth generation farmer in the village, will be serving tea and cakes and holding a dog show to celebrate the race coming to the village. “We just had to get into the spirit if it,” she said. “And it’s a great way to get our sheep on TV!”

Across the river, in Kirk Smeaton Church of England primary school, the excitement is building.

As well as being dressed in blue and yellow the children will hold a banner with the name of the school above their heads, so it can be seen from the air as the race comes through the village.

“It’s going to be so great to see so many fast cyclists going by” said Freya Jones, year 5.”I think it will inspire us to get on our bikes more.”

“Cycling’s great because you spend less time on social screening” agreed classmate Sam Asquith,

 “Cycling makes you feel energetic” said Luke Smith, also in year 5, “The whole school is going to go up to see the race and we’re going to have a picnic. We can’t wait.”

Gez Tindall has run the Shoulder of Mutton in Kirk Smeaton with his school mate Mark Barnes for the last 20 years.  The pub has become a hub of the community with a knit and natter group and for village get-together’s and all the meetings to organise this year’s Tour de Yorkshire celebrations have been held there. “We’ve got a WhatsApp group and everything” said Gez. “The race has pulled a lot of people together; it’s fantastic for the community and it’s good for business.”

“The Tour de Yorkshire is more than a great sporting event as the villages of Little Smeaton and Kirk Smeaton show,” said County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, “As a county council we invest in it because it strengthens communities and brings people together, makes the county a global destination and is good for business.  This is the real legacy.”

Simon Lovett has seen his bike repair business, Sycle (sic) Solutions, which he runs from Little Smeaton, grow significantly since the Tour de Yorkshire began. “We now have so many cycling clubs around here and lots of people who have taken up cycling for the first time or have come back to cycling, it’s had a real knock on effect on the business”, he said.  Simon worked formerly as a county council road safety officer, delivering the council’s Bikeability cycle proficiency training to schools. He started cycle training for people in the village who wanted to get back on their bikes and found villagers were also bringing their bikes to him for repairs and servicing.

His business has grown from there and he now also operates an emergency road-side recovery service when cyclists break down in the area. “The Tour de Yorkshire has been fantastic in so many ways” he said, “and it’s wonderful that this year it’s actually coming to the village.  We’ve only got the race for 500 metres, but it will be the best-dressed 500 metres in Yorkshire!”

This story was published 1 May 2019