I have never been a cycle racing fan. I previously tried to watch the Tour de France a few times and found it long and, at times, the racing situations did not make sense. I live in Yorkshire and it came here in 2 stages for the first time. My hometown of Harrogate hosted the stage 1 finish and the whole entourage of trucks and broadcasters came to bring the circus to a usually sleepy old spa town. I went to see it 2 days before the start and saw the amount of money it must cost to put on a show like that. Going with a friend who cycles he told me about some of the brands and I felt the excitement building. It surprised me that I was getting sucked into the spirit. The weather was good and we went to a local pub and soaked in a truly superb atmosphere. Harrogate’s central streets were closed off and it became clear this event was like no other. I watch Moto GP and have also worked as a volunteer at National events. The huge travelling circus at those events is impressive to say the least. At each new destination the trucks and teams would turn up and set the whole show up like some organic life form working to reach one goal. Then a few days later it would be taken down with equal efficiently and onto the next stage. Well the Tour de France was just like that but even more impressive. They had just as large a living spectacle involving all the trucks and people but with the added thought that the whole set up is taken down and erected more frequently.
Harrogate and Yorkshire created some great art for the Tour
The preparation was incredible to see
For weeks the local councils have re surfaced the roads and spent taxpayers money on making the route perfect for the tour. Then a week before the race signs were placed around the region explaining of parking areas (farmers fields) and of no parking areas on the side of the route. Barriers were placed to keep crowds back. Roads would be closed for 2 days over a weekend. This really was a big deal. Some were excited at the prospect while others were very vocal in their objection to the cost and inconvenience.
I did not go to watch the 2 stages as the TV coverage was superb with careful attention being paid to explaining the areas and history. Camera angles were exemplary. At one point I saw 5 helicopters over the house, all in a row and that did not include the helicopter that I was watching on the TV. It was remarkable how much organisation the race needed. I started to understand the race, how a peloton works and the teams use of its specialist riders. It is a time trial and an incredible endurance race. The only recent attention I had paid to the Tour de France was the bad press it received due to the doping scandals and especially the 7-time winner, American rider Lance Armstrong. He and his fellow competitors hurt the sport and I did not really understand how much until witnessing what a following it attracts. All those spectators and advertisers, all the Police, councils and teams that produce a huge spectacle make it quite unfathomable how for years doping seemed to run the sport. Corruption can rule most elements of business if the risk is made low and gains are high. It is good that now, on the surface, the sport seems clean.
Watching the TV coverage was exciting and informative
Yorkshire fans turned out in their thousands
We watched the UK riders representing their country
I have to now admit that it has won me over. The tour seems to involve great strategies. The crowds are infectiously enthusiastic and the organisation is second to none. The 3 days it was in England was something to be proud of. Not just for the UK but for the tour itself. Stage 1 was Leeds to Harrogate, taking in the long route around the Yorkshire dales. The second stage was York to Sheffield and the third stage was out of Yorkshire and started in Cambridge, ending in London. What a brilliantly devised course as it showed England to its full glory. The weather stayed fine until the final leg but that showed the tour in all the elements. I was very impressed with the scale and am now a convert. It worked its magic on me although I am still not very knowledgeable of the teams and riders names. I know that the UK fans were following a rider called Mark Cavendish whose mother came from Harrogate.
Yorkshire looked grand as the backdrop to the race
It was mesmerising when Cavendish was in a position to lead the race coming into Ripley past Ripon in North Yorkshire. When entering Harrogate he collided with another rider and unfortunately crashed out. I will have to pay more attention to the teams now so that I can enjoy the coming weeks racing. I maybe should have spent more time out watching the local route but I could not pull myself away from the stunning coverage. It was a true tour de force in everyway. Harrogate put on a great show, involving a family park and hosting the Princes Harry and William along with the ever-graceful Princess Kate. Gary Verity was intimately involved with bringing the Tour to Yorkshire and was ever present, as was his right to be. He is Chief Executive of ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ and really was the man responsible for every part of the Yorkshire cycle spectacle. He brought the French tour organisers over and flew them around Yorkshire. His vision was to involve Yorkshire, the north, into celebrations equal to those that were witnessed during the Olympics. All those sleepy villages created art, painted cycles yellow and flew flags and it started with one sheep farmers dream. We have him to thank for giving us a great weekend of high quality sport. The result has made the county more attractive for tourism and giving cycle sport more potential fans.
This is the speed the riders were reaching a few miles from the finish line ©Linda M
Mark Cavendish, although injured, made the finish exciting (in his mothers home town)
It was sad to see him struggle to get to the finish line and later to find out he was out
of the 2014 Tour de France
Giant-Shimano team rider Marcel Kittel from Germany won the race in my home town
The Tour de France main website
Gary Verity's 'Welcome to Yorkshire' website
Background to Gary Verity
Stage 1 Leeds to Harrogate as it happened