This weekend we at Store First Rochdale are all falling over each other to get time off to spend in our district. There are a couple of things of particular interest to me, the first is the Charity DRAGONBOAT RACE taking place at Hollingworth Lake on Saturday.
Originating from China over 2000 years ago, the history of Dragonboat racing is steeped in magical yet heroic myth, it has now become the world’s fastest growing water sport!!
Dragonboats are 12 meters long and decorated with a traditional Dragons Head… (being a Welshman, I hope they aren’t real Dragons). Each boat can have between 11 and 16 paddlers providing the power and a drummer to beat a steady rhythm. Anyone over 12 can take part.
The Dragons are raced against each other in a spectacular energetic display.
Teams compete in a minimum of three races with the fastest going through to the grand final. Trophies for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place will be presented.
There will also be other activities, stalls, licenced bar, bouncy castle and food stalls to make it a “Fabulous Family Day Out…”
The second, and by far the most excited I think I have ever been, is the second stage of the Tour de France, though technically not going through Rochdale, the Peloton will be travelling past, just a couple of miles up the road.
For those of you that don’t really know what it is all about, I shall endeavour to explain…
For 100 editions now (this being ed.101) the most elite of cyclists have been on a 3 week journey around France by bicycle, 21 stages, some 2500 miles or so of sometimes pleasant views, sometimes steep mountains and the occasional trip out of France.
This year the Grand Depart takes place in Yorkshire, where the first two stages take in the areas surrounding the old stronghold City of York, before moving to Cambridge and travelling through Essex finishing on The Mall (incidentally that’s where myself and a couple of friends -24,000 of them- finish our bike ride this August, “The Prudential Ride London – Surrey 100”) and then will cross the channel to resume the grandest of Grand Tours.
I one day hope to convince the top dogs at Store First to sponsor a cycling team, as the Tour de France is one of if not THE most watched sporting event in the world with a television audience of 3.5 billion people. When Sir Bradley Wiggins crossed the finish line to become the first ever Briton to win the Tour de France in 2012 some 3.6 million viewers tuned in to ITV1 and ITV4 to view it live on a Sunday afternoon, with the later highlights show catching 520,000 viewers.
And we have our very own Tour of Great Britain that takes part in September, although only for 8 days (and I wouldn’t mind going along myself, for sponsorship reasons, of course.) One thing to note, there are 4,700 hours of TV Coverage annually, 188 countries and 121 TV Channels.
Which makes “Le Tour” very big business.
If you are interested in coming along, visit www.letour.yorkshire.com for all details of local fan zones and best places to watch the action live.