THE only way is Yorkshire for Leeds’ Paralympic gold medallist David Stone this weekend. The cycling ace might have moved to Essex but the sporting star misses God’s Own Country like mad with few more excited about the Grand Depart than him.
Stone, 33, made international headlines at both the 2012 London and 2008 Beijing Olympics respectively with one gold medal in the mixed road race in Britain and a double golden haul in the time trial and road race in China. Stone’s long-term goals are now set on the Rio 2016 Olympics after which he says he will retire.
But more pressing in the immediate future are developments in the cycling star’s personal life with Stone settling into new surroundings in Brentwood, Essex where he has relocated to be with fiancé and trainee solicitor Phillipa. The duo became engaged in February before moving to Essex in March with Stone slowly but surely adapting to life in Brentwood of The Only Way Is Essex fame.
But for one weekend only, Stone and his fiancé are back in Leeds for the Grand Depart with Stone all set to be mesmerised as the Tour de France descends on the county he loves best.
“I think it’s magnificent how the people in Yorkshire have got behind it,” Stone told the YEP this week from his Brentwood base. “It’s incredible. No-one down here talks about it but I hear everyone in Yorkshire is completely buzzing about it and I still can’t believe it’s coming to Yorkshire. It will be incredible to see them riding the roads I used to train on. I do miss Yorkshire and it’s taken some adjustment. I miss the roads and I had better training in Yorkshire. I had a good group of people to go out with. But there’s also some good races in Essex and there’s a lot of time trials.
“We live in Brentwood which is where they film that awful TV programme The Only Way Is Essex – Brentwood is where the nightclub Sugar Hut is. But I never see any of the The Only Way Is Essex lot. I tend not to see them when I’m out on my bike and we don’t go dancing on a Saturday night.”
Nevertheless Stone and his fiancé have plenty to celebrate with the countdown on to their wedding next August in Derbyshire where Phillipa’s family are from. But competitive cycling remains at the forefront of Stone’s mind ahead of his sport’s World Cup in two weeks’ time followed by the World Championships in August. With his next birthday being his 34th, Stone admits staying at the top of his discipline is not easy but even so all roads will hopefully lead to Rio for one last hurrah.
“I’ll carry on until Rio and that will be it for me,” said Stone, who has been an inspiration to many in his battle with cerebral palsy. “I’m getting older and it’s getting harder. I’m 33 now. I’m still in a good position as I won the World Championship and I’m still up there but there’s more and more people coming through. When I started in Beijing there were only eight competitors but now there’s 25. It’s a lot harder than it used to be.”
Even so, few would bet against Stone going out in style in Rio, something the cyclist admits would fulfil his dreams.
“It would be mega to be able to put my feet up having won a medal,” said Stone. “That would really do it for me.”
Either way, Stone will eventually be left to bask on a wonderful career amidst his new surroundings in Essex, even if life is somewhat pricier than in Yorkshire.
Stone admits Essex is not cheap but oddly he has spotted one bargain. Asked how his wallet was faring with Essex prices, Stone laughed: “I’ve got an empty wallet. It’s a lot more expensive down here though for some reason a coffee and a teacake is cheaper.”
Bizarre, but then when did you see Joey Essex eat a toasted teacake?