Cycling ‘digistories’ mark Leeds’ Grand Départ anniversary

Leeds Kirkgate Cycling Club.
Leeds Kirkgate Cycling Club.
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THIS time last year, 230,000 spectators lined the streets to watch as the Tour de France’s Grand Départ came rolling through Leeds.

But back in the 1950s, it was the Leeds Kirkgate Cycling Club that stole the city’s sporting limelight.

During its heyday, crowds would cheer on cyclists at their weekly evening Track League meetings at Roundhay Park.

Now many of the friendships forged during the club’s golden age have been captured in a series of poignant digital stories, which will be shown as part of a special online exhibition by Leeds Museums and Galleries.

The ‘digistories’ feature members of the club reminiscing about the gruelling rides they have taken on across Europe, and have been put together as part of Leeds City Council’s celebrations to mark one year since the Grand Depart.

Among those telling their stories are John Smith and William Horn, who both joined the club in the early 1950s.

The Tour De France in Leeds. Pic: PA.

The Tour De France in Leeds. Pic: PA.

John said: “I joined the club as a 14-year-old. It was my life for many years and it was probably one of the best things I ever did.

“We’re still friends and get together on many occasions.”

William, one of a number of members who met his future spouse through the club, added: “I joined just after John and we’re all still friends – and I did OK out of Kirkgate too because I got a wife out of it!”

Formed in 1911 as the Leeds Kirkgate Market Traders Cycling and Athletics Club, it went on to have more than 100 members before it disbanded in the late 1960s.

It was my life for many years and it was probably one of the best things I ever did.

But many members still cycle well into their seventies and the club still supports the West Riding Track League at Roundhay.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “It’s hard to believe a year has already passed since the Grand Depart, with the incredible scenes we witnessed and the pride we experienced as a city still so fresh in the memory.

“This exhibition will allow us to celebrate an important part of the city’s sporting heritage.”

The online exhibition launches today.