There’s nothing like being there to experience the big events. But standing by the roadside watching your favourite cyclists fly past can be a fleeting pleasure. It’s all over in a few milliseconds, just like your wedding night. And there you are, dressed as the Prince of Darkness, with nowhere to go, but down.
The Worlds though are different. Better, even.
We’re very fortunate to have them in Yorkshire this year. The men’s road race kicks off in Leeds, rides through Otley and Ilkley, up to the Dales and back round to Harrogate, the beautiful old spa town in what was the West Riding. The women’s starts in Bradford and ends in Harrogate. All the time-trials end in Harrogate. Hold on, a theme is emerging here…
When we at Deserter – black belts in sitting down and enjoying a nice pint – were asked to preview the Worlds, a strategy became obvious: find the best pub in Harrogate to watch the cream of world cycling whizz past. After all, you lot know the jockeys better than we do.
But in order to enact our strategy, we’d have to visit as many of Harrogate’s boozeries as possible to decide which was optimal. It’s a dirty job, etc.
We explored Harrogate’s micropub, the Little Ale House. What’s a micropub? Well, they’re usually shops converted to no-frills, one-room, one-conversation bars that specialise in cask ale. Since their invention in an old butcher’s shop in Herne, Kent, in 2005, the micropub philosophy has propagated across the entire country, turning back the clock to a time when strangers had talked to each other. That time never ended in Yorkshire, so clearly the micropub has other charms. Oh yes, the beer. I went with the barman’s recommendation, Two By Two’s Session IPA from Wallsend in the north-east and it was a beaut. A strong contender for Pint of the Day .
Drinkers watched us with suspicion as we were followed into the garden by Lee, taking shots of us from unusual angles.
‘Are you in a band or something?’ asked a Scouse lady, sitting with her feller.
‘Have you heard of The Beatles?’ I replied.
Her husband was from Glasgow, as tumultuous a union with Liverpool as I could imagine. A lovely couple, they take every opportunity for a bargain getaway from their home in York. One of them mentioned visiting London’s Oxford Street.
‘I don’t really go to Oxford Street,’ I admitted, in common with many Londoners.
‘I can see that,’ said the Glaswegian, eyeing my second hand schmutter. Meeting plain-speaking folk can have its disadvantages.
This was the third bar in a row I would have been happy to stay in all day. You can watch the world go by at the front, sit in the cozy bar, or enjoy the back garden, all in good company, with friendly staff and top-notch ale. Why did you make us leave, Ian. Why?
Rouleur’s comprehensive guide to Harrogate’s many splendid bars is in issue 19.6, out now