Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Banks Nist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Banks Nist

Article excerpt


NO woman was killed (as movie makers are wont to reassure us) during the making of this column. But it was a damned close-run thing.

We were stood, the child bride and I, waiting for the Tour de Yorkshire bike race to sprint along the A65 into Ilkley following a fast descent down a hill known as the Cow and Calf when a great day out turned terrible.

An 80-year-old woman stepped off the kerb across the road from us and was clipped by a 40mph sprinter in a collision which sent both the spectator and half a dozen cyclists sprawling across the road. An awful groan went up from horrified spectators, followed by a fearful hush as the old woman was made comfortable at the kerbside.

Within minutes she was in an ambulance heading for A&E where she was detained with facial and arm injuries; the rider who struck her had to retire from the race with minor (but still painful) injuries.

What the poor woman had failed to realise was that the ten-second whirr of Lycra that had flashed before her eyes half a minute earlier was merely a leading group chasing two breakaway leaders and that the main body of the race - the peloton - was still some moments behind. That's what hit her.

It was a sickening moment, one which reminded Gemma of her own mother's hip-breaking fall in her mid-nineties which, for Audrey the Outlaw, had spelled the beginning of the end. Would this incident, we wondered later, be a similar precursor to decline of a life which, seconds earlier, had been for that woman so enjoyable in the company of her family? For me it was a reminder of the crashes in last year's Jim Clark Rally, an annual memorial to the Borders' much-loved twice-world champion racing driver, which left three spectators dead and half-adozen badly injured.

A high-speed race along tight Border B-roads watched by highspirited crowds without barrier protection is a disaster waiting to happen, insists the Elfin Safety Brigade. Perhaps so, but the other option - abandonment of tradition in favour of a squeaky-clean sanitisation of all things dubious - offers an altogether dimmer future: a sense of risk and fun lost and much-loved activities consigned, like Bonfire Night and foxhunting, to the dustbin of distant memory. …

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