Tour De France Braves Blustery Weather Of Yorkshire

Yorkshire is home to this year's Tour de France starting line. BBC anchor Harry Gration tells NPR's Tamara Keith about preparations for the annual sporting event — including well-stocked pubs.

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TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

As we just heard, the Tour de France begins today in Yorkshire, England. To understand how England's largest county is handling the influx of spectators and media, we called up BBC Yorkshire anchor Harry Gration.

HARRY GRATION: Well, let me first of all just describe Yorkshire to you if you've never been here before, in three words - very simple - God's own county. So you get the impression we're rather pleased to be hosting this event. What we don't appreciate is just how big it is. At the moment, there are 130 international media stations covering the event. There are trucks from all over the world arriving in Yorkshire, and we've been hit by an invasion. And it's just something which we feel so proud about.

KEITH: You actually rode part of the tour on your bike for charity. How did that go?

GRATION: Well, we rode the whole of the Yorkshire route - 258 miles. We did it on a tandem with my co-presenter we call them here - anchor you call them. She was on the back so the view she had was not as good as the one I had, which was of the Yorkshire countryside. She said that she didn't appreciate the view she got for some reason. But we did every single mile. We did it in Winter. That was the point. We had rain, hail, sleet, snow, everything thrown at us. But we've got an idea of just how difficult it is for these cyclist to climb some of these hills that they're about to face over the next 48, 72 hours.

KEITH: I've seen a video of you doing this, and all you can hear on that video is the sound of wind. And this can't possibly make for good cycling conditions.

GRATION: That of course is what happened back in March, and I have to say the wind was horrendous. We went up to part of the biggest climb, and the winds were 70 miles an hour. And we just got to the top before we were blown off the actual tandem, and we were put back on, and we managed to get to the top. At the moment...

KEITH: Wait, wait, wait. You were blown off of the bike?

GRATION: We were blown off - we were blown off of the bike 10 yards from the top - 10 yards. We managed to get back on. We got to the top thinking wow, we got it. We've made it. We can now make the descent, which is about three or four mile descent. And it was so dangerous that they stopped us from doing the descent, and we had to go back and start again in the morning. So that was a bit disappointing.

KEITH: Now, as we well know, pub culture is a big thing in the U.K. Are the pubs well-stocked? I mean, you got basically a Woodstock situation over there.

GRATION: Absolutely, yes. One of the great characteristics of being a Yorkshire man or a Yorkshire woman is that we're opportunistic. So we see an opportunity here. You can guarantee that the beer will be flowing in every pub between here and London. We still don't really know the level of crowds we can anticipate. And that's been one of the problems on a genuine aspect because many of the pubs don't know how many gallons to order because they never have experienced any thing quite like this.

KEITH: What's a Yorkshire pudding and would that be considered, like, good for carbo-loading or maybe recovery after a ride? - put it in the back pocket of your jersey?

GRATION: No, you couldn't do that, but it is one of the great delicacies of the world. Basically, can have a Yorkshire pudding, which is the size of a giant plate, or a very small one. What you do is you put lashings of gravy - onion gravy on the top of it. You can even have sausages in the middle of it as well. So if you were to put it down your jumper, it would make a bit of a mess, and it would be so much of a waste because it's only good for one thing - eating, I have to say.

KEITH: And now I'm hungry for lunch. Do we even need to ask who you'll be rooting for?

GRATION: Well, we'll be rooting for the English team, of course. Mark Cavendish is a great favorite, but the person who won it last year, Chris Froome - we're hoping that he's going to win this stage in Yorkshire because it - you've got to bear in mind, of course, it then translates itself into France, and it goes on for quite some time.

KEITH: Being the Tour de France and all.

GRATION: Exactly - that's the thing that we in Yorkshire can't really understand of course - the Tour de France in good old Yorkshire, as we say. That's the kind of thing that we - we're coming to terms with. And the great expression here at the moment is not parlez-vous France? - it's parlez-vous Yorkshire.

KEITH: (Laughing) Well, au revoir Yorkshire.

GRATION: Au revoir.

KEITH: Harry Gration anchors the BBC News Yorkshire program Look North. Thanks so much and have a great time this weekend.

GRATION: Thank you. Lovely to talk to you. All the best.

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