The village celebrated the Tour de France weekend in Grand style, attracting visiting cyclists and runners from across the UK to the annual summer Fell Race. This year’s race, renamed the Heptonstall Grand Depart Fell Race, was a huge hit with cycling fans arriving in the area for the Tour de France the following day. Runners from London, Edinburgh, and the Midlands were among those taking advantage of the temporary Tour de France campsite at the bowling club, as 30 tents and camper vans pitched on the fields adjacent to the club. On a perfect summer’s evening, it was hard to imagine a better venue for pre-Tour de France celebrations; Heptonstall’s historic cobbled streets were decked out in bunting, hanging baskets, and of course, yellow bikes, whilst excited runners gathered in their colourful club vests on the Weaver’s Square Start-Line.
Organiser Stephen Grimley said: “The Heptonstall Hurriers and the village volunteers are getting quite a reputation for putting on races, our 100 visitors were full of praise for the beautiful village, its landscape, and well organised races, but above all, the community spirit, and warm welcome of the people of Heptonstall. The event was another big success. We raised around £400 for Heptonstall Festival and were delighted that so many of our friends, neighbours, and families got into Le Tour spirit, volunteering their support so generously. We could not have achieved any of this without their help”
“The organisers and runners would like to say a big thank you to the 30 marshals (mostly from the village), we hope they enjoyed their free pints! A massive thanks to Terry at The White Lion for hosting the race and generously providing all the prizes, we are also grateful to Anthony Holt for letting us use his field for parking/ race route. Hazel Noble and Penny and Mark Wharton also kindly allowed the race to pass through their fields. Mark Wigg and Mark Holman gave up a huge amount of their time helping us to set up and organise the race. Steve Hoyle form Blackshaw Head Fete provided the tents, whilst Alpine Outdoors of Hebden Bridge supplied race numbers”
The wonderful post-race party was laid on by Jan, Guy, and the Village Team. The team set up French themed catering in the bunting-decorated court yard behind The Cross. Hundreds of locals and race goers gathered after the race to enjoy Tartiflette and wine under the bunting, whilst prizes were awarded to the race winners. Else Evans stole the show; she created a magnificent Tour de France chocolate cake which quickly disappeared, devoured by hordes of hungry runners.
In the race itself Calder Valley Fell Runners pair Karl Gray (England International) and Heptonstall’s own Holly Page (who also runs for England) demolished the men’s and women’s course records. Gray, tackling the race for the first time, sped round in 49 mins 37 seconds, smashing Christopher Smale previous best of 52:09 set in 2012. Joe Washington made it a 1-2 for Calder Valley with Richard Meade, an elite marathon runner who was part of a contingent of runners from Edinburgh in the area for the bike race, third. All three beat the previous record of Smale, who was 12th this time. Heptonstall based Holly Page came ninth of the 94 runners and won the women’s race for the third year in a row. Her time of 54:58 bettered the 55:42 of Holmfirth international runner Katie Walshaw in 2011.
International Mountain Runner Karl Gray, who is used to scaling The Three Peaks with the minim of fuss, remarked how tough the course had been. The 6 mile route, which has more than 1,600 feet of ascent, starts by heading up the cobbles, then plunges down to the Blue Pig before finding its way up 1000 feet of ascent to High Brown Knoll, the highest point on moors above Pecket Well. The race then returns in similar fashion, including a gruelling climb back through the woods from the Blue Pig.
That test wasn’t enough for Sikobe Litaba who ran approximately 30 miles from Glossop before taking part the race and beating 12 other runners back to the pub.
The next Heptonstall Fell Race will be the long, 15 mile race, which takes place in March 2015. We look forward to seeing another spectacular day for the village.