So, a confession. This site’s called North Yorkshire Cycling. Its purpose is to celebrate cycling in Yorkshire. I’ve lived in Yorkshire all my life. And yet it’s only really in adulthood that I became patriotic about a County that is known the world over for being fiercely proud of itself. So what took so long?
In an inttervew I listened to during the Scottish referendum, the writer CJ Sansom talked about his dislike of patriotism based on who we’re not rather than who we are. That so much of what people take to be patriotism is tribalism bordering on xenophobia. Then it all made sense. Growing up in Yorkshire in the 1970’s and 80’s, being patriotic to Yorkshire (from where I was sat) meant really only two things – supporting Leeds United and putting down Lancashire. Doubtless I’ll get shot down for not talking about rugby and cricket but in all honesty I wasn’t exposed to them.
The problem with the people I encountered that professed to be loyal Yorkshire folk was that they were generally loyal Leeds United fans. And the problem with the Leeds United fans I encountered was that, frankly, they had a tendency to not be very pleasant. Songs about shooting ‘scum’ supporters of other teams? A sign in the car window depicting a footballer urinating on a Manchester United shirt? Chants about being a ‘Yorkshire Republican Army’? This wasn’t for me. If this was what being a Yorkshireman meant then count me out. They didn’t seem particularly proud of their team, more they got a kick out of disliking everyone else. The same went with the whole dislike of Lancashire act – from what I had seen from visiting relatives it seemed like a thoroughly pleasant place with some stunning scenery that in places equals what we have in North Yorkshire.
But by spending more and more time exploring the region by bike and foot, I found a place and people I could be proud of. When the Tour de France came to Yorkshire in 2014, the World got to see the phenomenal scenery that we have on our doorstep. It saw the passion and pride of those living close to the route, embracing the occasion with bunting and yellow bikes. Were they all mad about cycling? Probably not (truth be told, the locals get equally excited for a display of bed racing in Knaresborough). But the massive crowds behaved pretty much impeccably and for those two days we weren’t proud to be Yorkshire for who we were not. We were proud to be Yorkshire because we knew how lucky we were to be here, to feel pride in the stunning landscape and respect what we have. We wanted to share that with the rest of the world, to invite you to share our pride in our region.
And that brings things nicely to the Brownlee Brothers. These are two guys that absolutely love riding their bikes, running the trails and hitting the pool. And they clearly love Yorkshire. As any club runner or cyclist in the Pennines area will testify, their appearance at local events, riding in the Dales and sitting in cycling café’s is never a shock. They’re often seen doing what we at North Yorkshire Cycling love to do – smashing around the by bike or on foot. As Alistair came to take his second Olympic gold medal, he grabbed flags of both the Union Jack and the White Rose of Yorkshire. He was proud to be winning for Team GB, but also for a Yorkshire that so many of us are proud to be a part of. And although envious that there weren’t high profile Yorkshiremen like the Brownlees to look up to when I grew up, we can be thankful that the next generation have them to aspire to.