After seeing the success of the Games Makers during the 2012 London Olympics, we felt compelled to have Tour Makers to help us out with the Grand Départ when that started in Yorkshire in 2014. Such was the passion and commitment of the good people of Yorkshire, we then continued to use Tour Makers for the Tour de Yorkshire and year on year they continue to be a key cog in our race weekend.
We caught up with four of our Tour Makers who have volunteered for us since 2014; Rachel Moyes, Olga Brand, Ian Brown and Brian Slater, and asked them some questions about their involvement.
(Rachel) - I was going through things in my life and this volunteering opportunity (for the Grand Départ in 2014) came up, I didn't think I would stand a chance as so many people had gone for it but I thought I would give it a go. Long story short, I got picked and I got an amazing position at the bottom of Pool Bank which was incredible. The doors that is has opened since, I worked on the Triathlon in Leeds last year for instance, and all the volunteering I have done has created so many great opportunities.
(Brian) - From my point of view, I always used to watch the Tour de France on TV and I loved it, I thought what a spectacle. Then I thought, hang on a minute, it's coming to Leeds! Then I heard about the Tour Maker programme, I thought "what the hell is a Tour Maker? What's that going to involve? Never mind, I'll put my name down" and yep I was lucky to be stationed in Hawes, on a 90-degree bend as they were belting through the town and the rest is history. Then every year from then we've had a message saying "are you up for next year" and our answer is always a yes and as long as God spares me I'll continue to put my name down.
(Olga) - I began to take an interest after reading about the TDF in my local paper. My home town of Harrogate was hosting and playing a big part at the end of stage 1. Thousands of volunteers were required. I wanted to be involved in this historic event occurring on my doorstep and I sent off my application. Then I began knitting a huge amount of mini jersey jumpers to decorate my town and my home with bunting!
(Ian) - I came in for the Tour de France, and was stationed as the race pulls in to Otley and it was great to stand there as the cyclists came flying by. I had my family there and it was a great day out and I thought, yeah, I'll do that again. Next time I was on Pateley Bridge, where there was snow, and my other half said "no, I'm not coming with you this time, you must be mad" but there was cups of coffee and biscuits and it was another great experience.
(B) - One of the key things now, is that there is a strong nucleus of Tour Makers, that people start to recognise names now, that friendships have developed there. Then because we've all had the training, that is quite a resource - not just for Tour de Yorkshire but for events like the Leeds Triathlon or the Rio Heroes Homecoming Parade.
(O) – Tour Makers are the event eyes and ears on the ground and are responsible for assisting in maintaining the integrity of the route and surrounding areas. You are constantly on the alert as to what is happening around you, you need to be polite and courteous when engaging with the crowds. It helps to have a little local knowledge, you may be asked lots of questions, especially, where are the nearest toilets! Be friendly, chatty, happy and enjoy the experience.
(R) - Just being personable with people. Be the eyes, ears and contact for spectators.
(B) - Be friendly, be alert - you've got to keep watching and making sure that people aren't putting bags over the wrong sides of the barriers and things like that. The main thing from my point of view, and the other people that I've worked with, is to make sure the spectators are enjoying their day. You wait around a lot during the day and then the whole thing goes “wooooooosssshhhh” as 160 bikes go flying past, followed by a pile of cars and then a broom-wagon and some people have stood there for hours waiting and it's all gone past in minutes - so in those few hours I'm getting them excited, getting them doing a Mexican Wave and getting that atmosphere going.
(I) - Also, a lot of people want to know where the race is - so it's tracking it on your phone, knowing where they are and being able to update people on the race progress. Also, you've got to keep people safe. As Brian says, people wait for a while for the race to come by, so it's making sure the children are having a good time too.
(R) – A good tip is to stand near a policeman if possible, as they’ve usually got up to date information on where the race is at and that’s always useful to know!
(B) – The police are really onside with the Tour Makers. On the day they come up to us and ask us if we’re ok and say if you need anything to stick your hand up and this makes a big difference. You really get the impression that you’re doing a job that is valued.
(O) - To begin with, for TDF, we had a full day training, this has now been condensed to a half day and usually consists of an opening talk by Welcome to Yorkshire, followed by an event safety talk from West Yorkshire Police. They advise on what to look out for, e.g. suspicious packages, aggressive behaviour, you always have a supervisor to whom you can report anything untoward, plus there is police and event safety presence.
(R) – It’s looking at crowd safety and our safety and making sure that everyone is safe.
(B) – Yep, making sure people are not sticking their legs through the barriers.
(I) – Or pushing them forward! You’ve also got to be careful of how you deal with things. Keep in pairs and work together to make sure the day runs smoothly.
(B) – The other important thing they get across in training, is what to do and who to contact if you have any problems at all. Basically, covering all bases so you know what to do if any situation arises and knowing the chain of command so you can quickly alert the right people and nip problems in the bud early.
(B) - It depends entirely on where you are stationed and what time the race is coming through, however usually we get to our points well in advance of the start time. There's always a meeting point for each group of Tour Makers and the supervisor from each individual patch contacts all the people in their team and arranges this usually. These meeting points could be a school, a pub, a village hall. From here, the team is deployed evenly around the patch they're covering, ideally in pairs so you can cover either side of the road if needs be, and a finish time is agreed for when you all meet up at the end. So far, it has worked like clockwork!
(I) - If you're stationed near the start of the race, then it can be quite an early start in the morning. Once you've been deployed in your pairs, you can see the next pair of Tour Makers down the road each way, so it's easy to signal to each other what is happening. So, if you need to alert anyone, it's really simple to do. Communication between the Tour Makers is really essential and so far, it has worked well.
(O) – For me, it's an early start to travel from home to Sutton Bank. On arrival, it's cold and it's drizzling. There is a covering of snow on the ground at the top of the bank. We gather at the visitor centre for a hot drink before a briefing with our supervisor, who allocates our positions during the race. My role today is a Route Marshall; I am wearing a High Vis vest and carrying a whistle just in case! I have brought a small backpack containing food and drink to keep me going through the day. My allocation is mid-way up the steep gradient, there is a hairpin bend lower down the hill. The crowds are gathering early, there's an air of excitement and anticipation, people of all ages, couples, families with children, cycling enthusiasts who have brought their bikes. I chat to some of the spectators and find out that some are on holiday, some live locally, others have travelled some distance to get a great view on this King of the Mountain climb. There are flags, banners, horns, cowbells, a lot of noise. I walk down the hill and back up again, talking to and interacting with spectators, all the while keeping an eye out for any hazards or rubbish on the road. The crowds are happy, caught up in the excitement of it all and I don't foresee any problems today but I am constantly on the alert. I chat to a couple of police officers, make myself known to them. They are very friendly and approachable. I turn around after hearing noise, I see the straight road in the valley below leading to the approach to the steep climb up Sutton Bank, the helicopter is circling below us which tells me the peloton is approaching. This is preceded by many vehicles, police outriders, the caravan, more police vehicles, dignitaries, the peloton is coming up the hill, the atmosphere is electric and the crowd spills out onto the road, encouraging the cyclists up the steep incline, the atmosphere is electric, the noise is deafening, everyone is caught up in the excitement of the moment. Following the peloton are the team cars, more vehicles, the broom wagon brings up the rear followed by police motorcyclists which signals the end and the crowds begin to disperse and to walk back up the steep hill to the car park.
(R) - For me it's about geeing everybody up. I have a big bike horn that I bought last year and a cow bell too to get the crowd going. The helicopters are a big part too. I think that for me on the day is where it kicks in. When you see and hear the helicopters, you know that the race is coming. That's when you start really geeing them up to the next level. During the TDF, when there were 6 or 7 helicopters flying around it was just incredible. I get goosebumps thinking about it!
(I) - You get a lot of noise along the road. People with whistles and klaxons. I had a young boy next to me with a klaxon, going non-stop for most of the day! Of course, the caravan plays a big part too – handing out flags to the children and growing the enthusiasm.
(B) - I honestly think the Tour Makers enjoy it as much as the people who come out to watch it.
(R) - It's like waiting for Christmas waiting to find out where we are all positioned and the excitement is definitely building with less than 50 days to go!
(R) - Wow, there's too many to pick!
(O) - A sense of pride at simply being involved. Beautiful Yorkshire being in the limelight, stunning locations. The buzz, the excitement, the anticipation, all building up amongst the spectators. The camaraderie and lasting friendships made with fellow Tour Makers. I offered a room in 2014 to a Tour Maker travelling from Eastbourne. We are great friends and she has stayed with me each year during TDY, while we volunteer. Watching it all back on TV, again with a sense of pride at the beauty of our county and having been a part of it.
(I) - When I was at Pateley Bridge, you hear the motorbikes and people are saying "they're coming now" and people all start to lean forward to see them coming down the road. They come flying down the high street and I was actually on the bridge at the bottom. So the riders come straight down onto the bridge and I'm stood there about 6 inches away from these bikes as they zoom past, I don't know if I saw any of them that clearly as it was like a blur but I felt them as they passed by that's for sure! It was fantastic.
(R) - Mine was a similar one but at Goose-Eye hill. On that occasion you couldn't see the helicopter but then suddenly it was above our heads and the crowds and the cameras started to go. Everybody was filming it and the cyclists flew past and the adrenaline and the gust as they zoomed past was incredible. Then they hit the hill and they slowed right down, with the helicopter hovering above them and everyone is watching these incredible lycra-clad athletes making their way up the hill.
(B) - I think mine is a bit more sedate than theirs. My highlight was just outside of Wetherby, when the Tour de Yorkshire came through. I was manning a crossing just going out of the town and about an hour before they were due through, about 4 local primary schools had obviously decided to come down to see the race. They all arrived at this crossing and lined up along the route, either side of the road, and the excitement on these kids’ faces, they all had flags, and they were singing and jumping about and it was just incredible. I thought, what could be better? A bunch of kids that are having the time of their life. That's what it's all about, isn't it?
(O) - Go for it, you will thoroughly enjoy the experience. And being involved as a Tour Maker opens so many opportunities to volunteer at other events. I was a flag bearer at the Rio Heroes Parade in Leeds last year. Wow, a carnival atmosphere, fantastic, loved every moment!
(B) Don't think twice about it, I’d say.
(R) Yeah, do it.
(B) You'll enjoy yourself, you'll meet some fabulous colleagues in other Tour Makers who will just take you by the hand and look after you. You'll meet some fabulous members of the public and you'll have an absolutely brilliant couple of days.
(R) Just look at what opportunities have come out of being a Tour Maker. This year my volunteering has swelled and my ultimate aim is to be a volunteer at Tokyo 2020 and this has all helped towards that. Just go for it, I was frightened to death, I had never done anything like this before. I was dreading the training and everything but it was all just brilliant. The family that we're getting now, the Tour Maker family, we're gelling and getting together and it's just a lovely little unit.
(B) There's maybe 60-70 people that I now know by name and it's just like a family as Rachel says. You go to training every year and get to catch up with some great people.
(I) It really makes you feel like you've done something. There's people helping out all along the route and when you've part of it you feel like you're doing a grand job.
(B) You feel valued. Lots of people in the public say thank you for looking after us. It's a great thing to do and we can’t wait until April.
These four, along with thousands of others, have volunteered to welcome spectators at both the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire. Their contribution to the race weekend is invaluable and we would like to that them all for their continuing & unwavering efforts.