With Le Tour’s Grand Départ just four days away, Temple Newsam welcomed school pupils from across Leeds for the Leeds School Cycle Challenge. The Challenge was designed to encourage children to cycle and to give the pupils, from 50 primary schools and five Special Inclusive Learning Centres (SILCs), a chance to meet Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman and five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault.
The event started at 9am with Councillor Blake speaking and outlining the type of races the children would be taking part in. She explained that pupils were to race in different races: a white jersey race, a red jersey race, a green jersey race and a polka dot jersey race- with the yellow race providing an afternoon finale. Each race mirrored the different stages of the Tour de France and, like the teams in the Tour de France, Primary schools were competing to get the most points!
While the pupils from the primary schools raced throughout the morning, there were also adapted races for pupils from the SILC schools and five primary school pupils with disabilities. Competition in the adapted races was fierce, with every SILC wanting their school to come out on top. The awards for the adapted races were presented by the Lord Mayor, who gave a speech on the importance of cycling and of not giving up, before announcing that North East SILC Oakwoood had collected the most points and was the overall winner!
Taking a break from racing for lunch, the primary school pupils had a chance to walk around the activity area where there were displays of Tour de France themed artwork made by pupils from the school. Police officers were also on hand to give the children tips about keeping their bicycles secure, and fruit and bottled water was provided by Leeds City Council staff.
After lunch Bernard Hinault arrived, alongside Tour de France organisers Christian Prudhomme and Gary Verity. With the yellow race about to start, the guests joined teachers and pupils gathered around the start and finish lines to cheer the competitors on.
After watching the children race Bernard said: “It’s fabulous, it’s extraordinary. You have to get the children involved in the [Tour de France] party! It’s not just for adults, it should be for everybody!”
When all the races has been completed pupils made their way towards the amphitheatre for an award ceremony; Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman had just arrived and pupils were eager to meet him and collect his signature. As the crowd in the amphitheatre grew, child friendly Leeds ambassadors, Dance Action Zones Leeds, provided entertainment with a stunning dance routine.
Nigel Richardson, Leeds City Council’s Director of Children’s Services, then began the awards presentation introducing the children to the guests and leading a chant of “Vive La Tour!”
Bernard Hinault, Christian Prudhomme and Gary Verity were presented with some Yorkshire parkin, and the Lord Mayor and Mayoress and Junior Mayor Charlotte Williams helped present awards, with three lucky pupils winning bikes as part of a raffle.
Nigel then encouraged the pupils to stamp their feet to create a drum roll, and announced that the school whose pupils had collected the most points over the day was Rawdon Littlemoor Primary! Pupils from the school came to the front of the stage and collected their prize from Chris Boardman.
Speaking about the event, Chris Boardman said: “Events like this give children the chance to do something different and get out and about. To think about how they can use bikes, because they are good tools just to get us from A to B. We should remember [school pupils] are the commuters of the future.”
The event was a great experience for pupils and guests, hopefully it will encourage more Leeds children to take up cycling, with the Tour de France leaving a healthy lifestyle legacy for years to come!