Driving forces who will make the Tour happen

Tour Makers Elena, Emily and Paula
Tour Makers Elena, Emily and Paula
Have your say

Meet the people who will make it happen.

These volunteers are part of the epic 12,000-strong force that will welcome visitors to the streets and hills of South Yorkshire in July.

They are the first Tour Makers in the history of the Tour de France – and they are ready for the ride of their lives when the Grand Départ – the opening stages of the race – arrives in South Yorkshire on Sunday, July 6.

Retired teacher Elaine Burtoft, of Hillsborough, Sheffield, is hoping to be close enough to see the elite cyclists’ strength and power. The 59-year-old says: “I love watching live sport – it doesn’t matter what it is – so volunteering is one of the ways I get to do that.

“I have asked to be a supervisor, but that hasn’t been confirmed, otherwise I would like to be a lollipop lady – someone who stops and lets people cross while the race is going on.

“I do want to get as close as I can. Television does a wonderful job, but to get live action is something else.”

Elaine has volunteered at the London Olympics 2012 and at other events worldwide after retiring from The Sheffield College.

She says: “It’s the atmosphere which will be brilliant, being able to interact with other people that are watching it.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years and its also an opportunity to show off Sheffield to the world.”

For student Elena Perousse, it will not be the first time she has seen Tour fever take over.

The 21-year-old hails from France – where her family often go to watch the massively popular event – and is currently studying tourism and hospitality at Sheffield Hallam University.

And she will be watching with interest to see how the Tour is given a Yorkshire twist on the weekend. Elena, who lives in Sheffield city centre, says: “The Tour is a really good day out – so many people go to watch it as it finishes around the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris.

“It has the same kind of atmosphere as a football World Cup.

“It will be interesting to see how it is different in England than in France.

“Everybody is quite used to it back home, but I am excited to see how people react.”

Fellow events management student Emily Burton, aged 22, hopes a British cyclist will race to victory as she volunteers for Welcome to Yorkshire and also acts as a production assistant for Le Grand Départ.

She says: “As a spectator, I have experienced the Tour in France on several occasions so to actually have the opportunity to be part of the Tour is a dream come true, both personally and professionally. It doesn’t get any better for an events management student. The atmosphere will be electrifying.”

Alex Riley put his name forward as a keen cyclist.

The 19-year-old student, of Royston, Barnsley, says: “I do most of my cycling off road, but I watch the Tour every year.

“It is always exciting when it is in France, but now there is a chance to see it close to home it is an unmissable experience. Maybe with a bit of training, I will give the route a go, but I don’t think I would be up for that just yet.”

Tour Maker roles include wayfinders at transport hubs, route marshals, flag marshals and crossing marshals along the route.

The volunteers will be allocated roles by the organisation TDFHub2014, which is tasked with delivering the Tour Maker programme.

Teacher Julia Jones is hoping to relive her childhood of watching the race, as well as introducing her four children to the sport.

The event is already causing waves of excitement at St John’s Primary School in Penistone, where she works.

Julia, of Monk Bretton, says: “My parents have always watched the Tour and it is going to be amazing to have it so close to home.

“I don’t mind what I do as long as I am involved. You get to meet lots of interesting people and having worked at other events further from home, it is great that this is on the doorstep. The route goes close to our school so the kids are getting excited and making bunting.”

Paula Lee, a marketing officer at Sheffield Hallam University, is also volunteering.

She says: “It’s not often a large event comes to Sheffield and you get the chance to help. It was impractical working at the London Olympics or the Commonwealth Games, so this was a chance not to be missed. It also goes past the village I grew up in, Worrall, which is where I am hoping my Tour-Maker role will be based.”

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, the agency behind bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire and the Tour Makers idea, said: “Whatever role a Tour Maker plays, they can say for years to come ‘I was there and I helped make it happen.”

Biking memories and audio dramas

Hardcore cyclists who ride across Europe – or those who took to a bike for the first time as an adult.

All these stories and more are welcome submissions for a special project that will create a new piece of live theatre from residents’ biking memories as well as a series of audio dramas.

Bespoke is being run by Sheffield Hallam University, an official sponsor of the Tour de France.

The man behind it is playwright Chris Bush, the former writer in residence at The Crucible.

He says: “One of the really great things about this is the mixture of stories that we are getting.

“We have had people who take cycling really seriously and ride across Europe get in touch, which is fantastic as that’s what the Tour de France is about.

“Others have told us about their first bike rides when they were aged five or six. Another person got in touch to tell us about when they moved to Sheffield in the 1980s and got on a bike for the first time – now she loves it and has never looked back.

“You don’t have to be a cycling expert to share your story.”

There is still time to share your most memorable biking story, whether it is the daily grind of a commute to work or a two-wheeled trip through the Peak District at sunset.

Hallam students will record the stories before they are released as podcasts with a map of your cycle route so others can recreate it.

The original theatre piece will be performed as thousands of visitors – not to mention the cyclists – arrive in Yorkshire for the Grand Départ.

Visit www.shu.ac.uk/tourdefrance/bespoke/ to submit a story.