Two charities – the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the Dave Rayner Fund – are splitting the proceeds of the £50,000 sale of a series of murals installed in Harrogate last year to celebrate the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.
Eight panels depicting cycling legends – well, you may not have heard of one of them, which we’ll come back to – were commissioned from artist James Straffon by interior design firm Stephen Neall Group, which is based in the town.
Cyclists depicted on the panels, each measuring 2.5 metres square, included Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx, as well as British riders Mark Cavendish, Barry Hoban, Brian Robinson and Tom Simpson.
The last three are all Yorkshiremen, while Cavendish’s mother comes from Harrogate.
Since last year, the stencilled panels have been on the exterior wall of The Factory in Harrogate, the building where group subsidiary Poliform North is based.
Earlier this month, however, business owner Stephen Gee auctioned the artwork, with Dransfield Properties, which is based in South Yorkshire, winning the bidding at £50,000, reports the Harrogate Informer.
There was one condition, however – that those riders still alive must autograph the panel bearing their image, which led to Gee racking up 1,800 miles to track them down, the last to sign being Eddy Merckx.
“It was certainly a challenge, not just getting the agreement of each cyclist but then finding a time and place when the pictures could be signed,” he said.
“After one unsuccessful attempt to get Mark Cavendish to sign his picture at Manchester Velodrome, we drove to Ghent in Belgium where he signed it in the lobby of his hotel.
“It was a remarkable adventure and such an honour to be in the company of cycling greats past and present.
“I’m delighted we have been able to donate so much to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, a charity that provides such a vital service here in Yorkshire,” he added.
The charity’s North Yorkshire Fundraising Manager, Tony Doveston, said: We have worked closely with Stephen and Poliform North over a number of years and particularly during last year’s Tour de France.
“He is a fantastic supporter of the charity and we can’t thank him enough for this incredible donation.”
The Dave Rayner Fund, which helps aspiring professional cyclists get their careers started by enabling them to race abroad, with David Millar, Dan Martin and Adam Yates among those to have benefited, also receives £25,000.
The panels are destined to be installed at a bike shop at Sheffield’s Fox Valley development which is being built by Dransfield Properties and is due to open next year.
The company’s managing director, Mark Dransfield, said: “We are delighted to support these two great causes and we are very proud to be guardians of these nine fantastic pieces of art.
“Our long term plan for the pieces is for them to be displayed in the new Full Gas Bike shop which is opening next year at our Fox Valley development in north Sheffield and where they can be enjoyed by everyone.”
The Poliform North website has t-shirts for sale for £20 featuring the eight stencils plus an additional one of Sir Bradley Wiggins that doesn’t appear to have been on the outside of the building.
It is also selling a limited edition of nine copies of all nine stencils for £4,500 – if that’s a bit outside your budget, you can also find prints, canvas wraps and much more for sale for much less through Photobucket.
We’ve mentioned eight riders above, but there is a ninth – a certain Harry Binns; you won’t find any mention of the “runty whippet from Harrogate” in the record books, but his biography on the Poliform North website is an entertaining if somewhat improbable read.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.