The eyes of the world will be on Yorkshire this summer as the world’s most watched annual sporting event rolls into action from God’s own county.
A global TV audience of 3bn people are expected to tune in to watch the Tour de France Grand Depart stages that pass through Yorkshire’s most iconic rural and urban scenery during two days of racing.
The likes of Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome will line up on The Headrow, in Leeds city centre, alongside almost 200 cycling supremos when the sporting spectacle begins in earnest on Saturday July 5 at 11.10am.
Around 2,000 journalists from 35 countries will descend on the city alongside hundreds of thousands of spectators from all over the world on the day.
Preparations for the greatest sporting coup in Yorkshire’s history sparked into action following Welcome to Yorkshire’s successful bid in autumn 2013, and the spirit of the cycling centre-piece has been duly celebrated in style through the £2m Yorkshire Festival.
A total of 47 cultural commissions have been bringing the sporting spectacle and our county’s artistic flair to the masses through everything from Todmorden’s Fantastical Cycle Parade to the dance, art and sporting Ghost Peleton light show and stunning land art Fields of Vision installations across the South Pennine uplands.
And the festival - the first to tee up a Grand Depart in 111 years of Tour de France - still has highlights to come including the Tour de Brass show at York Barbican on June 21 and 22, and Maxine Peak’s stage homage to Morley cyclist Beryl Burton at West Yorkshire Playhouse, in Leeds, from June 30 to July 19.
Details are also emerging about the Team Presentation at Leeds’ First Direct Arena on July 3, where riders from all 22 Tour teams will be paraded during a night packed with live music and entertainment which is promised to be the biggest in Tour history.
And with blanket road closures along the route announced, emergency response readied and travel plans put in place to add more than 90,000 extra seats for rail passengers during the Grand Depart weekend, fans and residents are being invited to embrace the once-in-a-lifetime arrival of Le Tour during the July 5 and 6 Grand Depart weekend.
Chair of Tour organisers TdFHUB2014 Ltd Sir Rodney Walker said: “We are now in the final straight in terms of preparations and the team and all our partners are working flat-out to make this the greatest Grand Depart the Tour has ever seen.”
Official free-ticketed spectator hubs, featuring big screens, catering and entertainment, will host a combined 45,000 expectant fans split between The Headrow startline and Eastgate, Regent Street and Sheepscar South, before riders cycle up past a further 10,000 people gathered at the Scott Hall playing fields hub.
In the days running up to Le Tour and indeed during it, the second Yorkshire Bicycle Show at Leeds Town Hall will showcase all aspects of the sport, from top-end road bikes to mountain bikes and stunt cycle displays, to 3,000 visitors.
Leader of Leeds City Council Coun Keith Wakefield said: “As we enter the final weeks before the Grand Départ people are now getting really excited as July 5 gets closer and closer. Leeds is immensely proud to be the host city for this incredible global event and we are ready to welcome the world.”
As the riders power out of the West Yorkshire hub, they will soon arrive at the Harewood Estate, where the world’s greatest cyclists will lineup on the drive outside Harewood House for stage one’s ceremonial start and a symbolic Red Arrows flypast.
The grand estate is set to host the Dare 2b Yorkshire Festival of Cycling from July 4 to 6, which will see cycling names including Otley-born Olympian Lizzie Armitstead and 2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro appear alongside a shopping expo, live entertainment, big screens, Army and RAF-run activities, a Battle of Britain memorial flight and cycling time trails.
Christopher Newton, director of Harewood Events Ltd, said: “Everyone is really excited for July to roll round and the Tour coming to Yorkshire for the first time has presented a chance to put a British stamp on proceedings as we cheer our riders on.”
The world will be watching Yorkshire, and the county aims to deliver beyond expectations.
RACE TIMINGS STAGE ONE SATURDAY JULY 5
The Headrow, Leeds. The publicity caravan sets off from here before the race at 09:00
Departure from Leeds - 11:10
Harewood - 12:00