Crowds converge from miles around on Dales Buttertubs Pass

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AS JENS Voigt led the Tour de France into the ascent of Buttertubs Pass, he may have taken a cursory glance at the haybales covered to look like giant Wensleydale Cheeses dotted along the sides of the country lanes.

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But he would have missed the white and red polka dots that adorned the building of JR Hopper estate agents in Hawes, and a wooden signpost in the heart of the capital of the Upper Dales pointing towards both Paris and Buttertubs.

If there was ever an indication that Yorkshire has embraced the arrival of the Grand Départ, then it was in the Dales.

It was fitting that Hawes, one of England’s highest market towns, opted for the polka dot colour scheme of the King of the Mountains, standing out from the yellow fever which has gripped the rest of Yorkshire.

Thousands of spectators lined the route above the town in what is the Tour’s biggest climb in Yorkshire, stretching up to the 1,745ft summit, basking in sunshine after overnight downpours and an overcast early morning gave way to glorious summer weather.

Among the crowd was Fred Bergen and his wife, Linda Wild, who had travelled from Toronto in Canada for a two-week holiday in the North of England which culminated in watching the Tour.

Ms Wild, 55, a marketing executive, grew up in Pudsey, near Leeds, before emigrating at the age of 17.

She said: “It was too good an opportunity to miss - the chance to visit my relatives still in Yorkshire, and also to see the Tour.

“It has been such a great atmosphere and the North of England has been truly beautiful.”

Thousands of bikes were left by spectators at the roadside along Buttertubs Pass, with a festival atmosphere reaching a fever pitch as the riders began the ascent at just before 2.30pm.

Mary and John Riddell travelled from Islington in London with their son Joe, 29, and his girlfriend, Liz Cullins, also 29.

It was the fifth Tour for Mr and Mrs Riddell, with the previous four all in the French Alps.

Mrs Riddell said: “Buttertubs has a real look of an Alpine climb, but the difference has been the atmosphere.

“The communities have all got so involved, even more so it seems than the French, who obviously love the Tour.

“It really has taken over Yorkshire’s towns and villages, it has been great to see.”

The biggest cheers were reserved for the youngest cyclists who conquered the summit before the professional riders arrived.

One of them was 11-year-old Tom Lees, who joined his father, Mike, 43, and 10 other riders from the Preston-based Red Rose Olympic Cycling Club.

Tom said: “It was hard work, I have never done a climb like this. But it was amazing, and gave me a little idea of what it would be like to a rider on the Tour.”

Carrying a German flag, Holger Weiss, 36, had travelled from Pudsey, with his wife, Natasha, also 36, and their five-year-old son, Sören.

Mr Weiss, an electrical engineer originally from Osnabrück, near Münster, said: “I have lived in England for 11 years, and I have never felt this is actually my home. But today I am so proud to come from Yorkshire.”