How to watch a cycle race with a toddler

It’s the Tour de Yorkshire this weekend and we are planning on making the most of having the opportunity to watch professional cyclists right here, almost on our doorstep.

It was the Tour de Yorkshire and this video that made me homesick enough to move from our little village in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands back to my home county of Yorkshire.

We’re no strangers to following cycling events. Two years ago, a heavily pregnant me watched the excitement of the Tour de France Grand Départ when it came to Yorkshire, an even more pregnant me also froze and was nearly drowned watching the Commonwealth Games road cycling in Glasgow later that ‘summer’. We also spent many years watching cycling events around the previous home island of Jersey.

Last September however, we found that watching cycling events with a child was a very different experience when we followed the Tour of Britain on it’s visit to neighbouring county of Lancashire. I wouldn’t say a bad experience per se, but we have realised that a few things need to change this time.

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So if you are planning on watching the Tour de Yorkshire this weekend, or any other sporting event here are a few top tips we learned the hard way last September.

1. Allow far more time than you think you need

BM (Before Monkey) if we turned up late and the roads were already closed we would dump the car (safely obviously) and leg it up the hill/ down the road to watch the racers fly past. With a toddler in tow it’s not quite so easy so you want to make sure you can park, do snacks/ nappy change etc. in plenty of time to get to your vantage point.

2. Realise you may have compromise on your vantage point

We use to love watching the King of the Mountains come panting and pushing themselves over the peak of the climb or the sprinters fly over the finish line BM. At last years Tour de Britain we took the decision to find a viewing spot a bit lower down the hill for two reasons: Less crowded which allowed us space to spread out a picnic blanket and let Monkey toddle around without upsetting anyone. It was also a bit warmer which reduced the chance of tears from being cold. 11990419_10153019784532204_4547189685770326841_n

3. Find somewhere that has entertainment

Whether that is a park with swings within walking distance of the route or live entertainment put on for the event, you can keep your little one happy while keeping an eye out for the riders approaching.

Failing that…

4. Stock up on snacks, nappies, toys and changes of clothes

Even if you’re not at a main climb, spring or the finish line you are likely to be in for a wait (see point 1) While we were happy following the racers progress on Twitter or generally just sitting around, a toddler is not going to be interested in either of these for longer than 1 minute. Also, unlike the Tour de France where the public can hang their car or camper van off the side of mountains, our roads in the UK aren’t really wide enough for this so you’re likely to be a fair walk from your car. We were a bit under prepared on the snack and toy front at the Tour of Britain but this time we are going well stocked with books, colouring, dolls and enough Organix rice cakes, oat bars, veg sticks and fruit to feed an entire toddler army.

5. Grab as many promotional items as you can

Flags and the inflatable bangy things (what are they called?) were our saviour when we failed at point 4 on the Tour of Britain. They were also great in getting Monkey interested in what was going on so she took notice when several hundred lycra clad riders flew past.

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5. Use it as a learning experience for your little one

Even though Monkey wasn’t talking at last years Tour of Britain, we took the time to point things out and say the words over and over again. Bike is now one of her regular words!
We’re hoping that regular exposure to being outdoors and sporting events will help develop a lifelong interest and excitement for these things that we love. With ever increasing levels of childhood obesity and a recent report that UK children spend more time indoors than any other nation, we hope that Monkey’s generation will turn the tables and realise the important of exercise and fresh air.

So where will we be watching the Tour de Yorkshire?
On Friday our plan is to watch just outside of Settle on the approach to the finish line. This has the distinct advantage of seeing the riders twice as they loop around and even though we won’t see the final sprint, we should get to see the teams preparing to launch the sprinters. We also hope to get there early enough to soak up some of the atmosphere in the town itself before walking back to our spot.

We’ve still not decided on Saturday but are considering one of the climbs just outside of Leeds, we still need to do a recce.

On Sunday we are foregoing the most exciting day of the race to go to Geronimo Festival at Harewood House. Dedication to my child’s love of Mr Bloom and Justin Fletcher should be awarded!


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