Lizzie Armitstead, 27, from Otley, is one of the best cyclists that the UK has ever produced. Currently the world road race champion and preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Lizzie lives in Monaco and races for Boels Dolmans.
What is your first Yorkshire memory? I would say my first memories are of going out for walks as a youngster with my brother and sister, Nick and Kate. Our parents would drag us out of the house every Sunday and we’d walk around Fewston Reservoir. I also have a lot of happy memories of my time at Otley-Wharton’s Primary School. It was very family orientated. I learnt to ride at four. My first bike was a hand-me-down from my sister and it was purple with a basket.
What is your favourite part of the county and why? The Wharfe Valley. That’s because it’s a great place to ride my bike. I have so many happy memories of that area. My sister had her wedding reception at the village hall in Bolton Abbey in 2005, and when I get married in September next year our reception will also be there. Bolton Abbey is a great place in the summer because you can go swimming in the river. I’ve also fond memories of Kettlewell, of going to the pubs there after walking on the fells.
What is your idea of a perfect day or weekend out in Yorkshire? I would say going to Whitby. There’s nothing better than a walk on the beach and then having fish and chips – I think that’s a really important part of a trip to Whitby. I also love Robin Hood’s Bay and I have good memories of a residential outing to Boggle Hole when I was at school. We went orienteering and it’s just nice to be by the seaside.
Do you have a favourite walk or view? I like going for a walk on Surprise View at Otley Chevin. The views are lovely and it reminds me of home. I remember fondly the treasure hunts we had there as kids looking for Easter eggs and playing on the rocks.
Which Yorkshire sportsman or woman, past or present, would you like to take out for lunch? It would have to be Beryl Burton, the great cycle racer from Leeds who won seven world titles in the 1960s. She was an inspiration to me and it would be interesting to ask her about her approach to training and how she overcame the prejudice and barriers in her career. There was much prejudice against female riders in Beryl’s era, and there is still a lot to overcome now. I’ve faced many barriers in my career as regards salaries and opportunities. As to the present, when I’m home I train with Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee, the famous triathletes from Leeds. Mind you, I would let them take me out for lunch!
If you had to name your hidden Yorkshire gem, what would it be? I love York. As children, we would go each Christmas to see a show and then have a family meal later in the Shambles. I like the history of the city, the river and the many good restaurants. You can have a great day out in York.
What do you think it is that gives Yorkshire its unique identity? It has to be the mixture of the county’s landscape and the people. I’ve travelled all over the world and Yorkshire folk are among the friendliest. You’ve also got the mixture of bustling cities like Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield, but only a few miles away you’ve got stunning scenery and you could be 100 miles away from a city.
Do you follow sport in the county and, if so, what? I’m not into football, rugby or cricket. My school friends support Leeds Rhinos, but I do follow triathlon events and I like to keep up with the progress of the Brownlee brothers. I’ve known them since I was 12 and they are the most professional athletes I have come across. We can be out all day on our bikes and when we’re finished, I’ll relax on the sofa but they’ll be going out for a run.
Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? I am afraid I don’t go to many pubs any more, but when I’m back home I go with my parents to The Wharfedale Inn at Arthington for lunch and I like to see my friends in Otley and meet them in the Ring O Bells. Otley is famous for its variety of pubs.
Who is the Yorkshire person you admire the most? My grandparents Ray and Marjorie Dunn who live in Otley. They are both in their 80s and very active. They both ride bikes and are great supporters of mine. They saw me win my first world title in Poland in 2007 and watched me win medals at the 2012 Olympics in London and at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. Granddad is soft and always cries and Grandma reacts differently because she screams and gets happy and excited.
How do you think Yorkshire has changed for the better or worse since you have known it? I would say for the better. In my sport, there are a lot more cyclists on the road now. There has been a big change in the last 10 to 12 years and Yorkshire has embraced cycling, such as the Tour de France. I’m excited to see so many cyclists.
If a stranger came to Yorkshire and had time to visit one place only, where would it be? It would have to be Otley. I am very proud to come from Otley and it would be nice for a stranger to see it. It is a close community. I am proud of my schools and the Bridge United Reform Church. From a personal perspective, Otley is home.