As Leeds and the rest of Yorkshire prepares for its grand day out Tom Richmond reflects on the enormity of the event and the legacy it will leave for its riders and the region.
A HISTORIC TOUR de France was beginning today with Yorkshire’s full blessing after a vivid yellow jersey was unveiled on the roof of York Minster in honour of the Grand Départ.
The tribute was another first in the 111-year history of the Tour as the peleton finally started its epic three-week journey from Leeds to Paris.
And the race was also receiving the Royal seal of approval – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, together with Prince Harry, were presiding over a ceremonial start in the grounds of Harewood House which was also celebrating British cycling’s unrivalled success.
The young royals and a host of VIPs were then due to travel to Harrogate for stage one’s climax when an expectant crowd hope star sprinter Mark Cavendish, whose mother Adele hails from the town, can claim the maillot jaune and the right to wear the yellow jersey for the first time in his celebrated career.
Many of the million-plus crowd will line the county’s roads tomorrow when the Tour entourage passes the imposing sight of York Minster before heading to Sheffield.
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Minster’s devastating fire, it is even more appropriate that Yorkshire’s greatest landmark should embrace the Tour’s most enduring symbol with a spiritual yellow jersey bearing the legend “Allez, Alleluia!”
“We’ll have the cyclists travelling across the new Piazza by the South Door, but knowing how many helicopters and aircraft will be filming and broadcasting to the global audience from the skies above the city, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to put a clear Tour De France stamp on top of the Minster,” said the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York.
Last night, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity said support for the race was “exceeding all expectations”. He added: “It is testament of the incredible passion that the people of Yorkshire have for the county, and for cycling.”
This was illustrated by the roadside Tour tributes which were adding a real French flavour to the Grand Départ. They include a freshly painted sign in Swaledale pointing Team Sky’s defending champion Chris Froome in the direction of Paris.
Only then will it dawn on Froome, and his rivals, that they face a further 2,200 miles to journey’s end, an endurance test made less daunting by the cheers of ‘Allez Yorkshire’ ringing in their ears.