When the Tour de France begins on Saturday, the cast of Emmerdale will have a front row seat for the annual bicycle race. The classic cycling endurance race starts in Leeds, passing through the Harewood Estate, home to the purpose-built village of Emmerdale!
We caught up with Emmerdale star Chris Chittell, who plays Eric Pollard in the ITV soap, to talk about the Tour and his own exciting sporting pursuits…
Is there a buzz of excitement in the air, with the Tour de France about to pedal off?
“This is the first time the Tour has come to Yorkshire. It’s fantastic and the roads are perfect for these cyclists – they are fast, furious and steep!”
Last year’s champion Chris Froome and sprint king Mark Cavendish are among the British cyclists competing. Who do you think’s going to win?
“They all deserve to win, hells bells, it’s such a tough sport. I wouldn’t like to do it, you can’t bounce back on tarmac!”
And Emmerdale did its own Tour de ITV on Monday to raise money for the Join In organisation!
“We have two teams of five taking part, including James Hooton (Sam), Jamie Shelton (Robbie) and Nicola Wheeler (Nicola). Unfortunately I’m not part of it as I’ve had to pull out. But it will be very exciting, they’ll be doing some relays. It’s a great chance for Emmerdale to show off our athletic prowess!”
Are the cast going to get together to watch the Tour kick off?
“There is talk we might be working. I’m thinking ‘how are we going to get into work because all the roads will be closed off!'”
Oh no! You’ll have to stay on set overnight…in The Woolpack or the village B&B!
“That would be terrible, a bunch of actors all together!”
Did you meet Victoria Pendleton when she guest-starred in Emmerdale recently?
“I didn’t. I don’t know why I wasn’t involved with that storyline. I think maybe Pollard is over the hill. Charlie Hardwick (Val) and I have been very, very busy. So maybe they’re giving the audience a bit of a breather from our antics!”
Eric did a sky-dive in Emmerdale. You must be a dare-devil to have done that for real!
“I have a huge problem with heights so when I filmed the skydive I had to look inside myself and be positive. They could have got a stunt double in to do the entire thing, and I could have just turned up to say the lines!”
What other sporty stuff do you do? Aren’t you big into your running?
“Yes, I’ve done the London Marathon 12 times, the New York marathon twice. My daughter, Rebecca, bless her cotton socks, ran her first London Marathon this year which is fantastic and she’s already put herself down to do the London again next year. I went down to cheer her on, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
What’s it like working in the Emmerdale village?
“Oh it’s the best! If you enjoy the outdoors, which all the team do. Though sometimes it’s a bit difficult. You’re halfway through a moving scene and you feel something above you and it’s a beautiful kite (bird) 30ft above you. How can you continue when you have such an abundance of beautiful species. We’re very lucky, very fortunate!”
Wasn’t Emmerdale originally filmed at a real village?
“Yes, we were up at Esholt near Shipley. But it got a bit tricky for the real residents. Some poor person coming back from work would get told by one of our crew, ‘Can you park elsewhere, please we haven’t finished the scene’ or someone wanting to go to work and being told, ‘Can you just leave your car there for a second?'”
Coverage of the Tour de France can be seen on ITV4