A free four-day party is being planned at the Tour de France (TDF) Grand Depart stage one finish line as Harrogate plays host to the only official TDF Fan Park outside of London.
The West Park Stray is the only place in Yorkshire which will host an official Velo-Go Go Fan Park which will have a big screen, food stands and bars with a festival atmosphere.
The hub will be in place from July 3 to 6 with live music and party nights, though the World Cup quarter final will not be shown on big screens to ‘maintain a family orientated event’.
Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Anthony Alton said: “We had always planned to have a fan zone on West Park Stray but this takes it to another level and it also gives businesses the chance to get involved too.”
More than 100,000 visitors are expected to descend on Harrogate on the weekend of July 5 and 6, and a second spectator hub will be set up outside Crescent Gardens to absorb some of the pressure from the crowds gathered at the finish line.
Harrogate town centre will go into lockdown for 18 hours on the day the Tour de France comes to town.
Vehicle access to the town centre will be completely stopped on Saturday July 5 from 4am to 10pm, and parking restrictions will be put in place in the days leading up to the stage, Harrogate Borough Council has revealed.
At an event for Harrogate businesses in April, Nigel Avison, the council’s director of development services, said: “This is the biggest event Harrogate has ever seen and probably will ever see.”
He added: “It will cause disruption. The perception that life can go on as normal is a bit fanciful.”
All roads bounded by West Park, Parliament Street, Montpellier Hill, Royal Parade, Crescent Road, Swan Road, Cornwall Road, King’s Road, Springfield Avenue, Cheltenham Mount, Bower Street, Lower Station Parade, Station Parade and Station Bridge will be closed for a minimum of 18 hours on race day and traffic coming into Harrogate will be directed to the Great Yorkshire Showground or car parks in private fields on the Killinghall side of town.
A two-mile walkway connecting the showground with the town centre will be created and decorated and visitors will be encouraged to walk or cycle into Harrogate.
David Bowe, North Yorkshire County Council’s director of business and environmental services, said: “The reality is, this will not be a normal weekend.
“We have seen the level of traffic for the Great Yorkshire Show – this is very very many times that size in terms of traffic.”
Mr Bowe said that 51 per cent of the Yorkshire Grand Depart would take place on North Yorkshire County Council’s roads and 500 junctions will need to close across the county.
He added: “It is inevitable there is going to be significant impact on the roads. It is not going to be the traffic management itself that causes problems, it is going to be the traffic.
“If this is as popular as expected to be there will be queueing traffic around the area.”
Harrogate’s ancient Stray Act has been relaxed by the Secretary of State to allow the area to host the sprint finish of the first stage of the Tour de France and a spectator hub.
Judy D’Arcy Thompson, chair of the Stray Defence League has questioned what protection would be in place for the Stray.
John McGivern, Tour de France event manager at Harrogate Borough Council, said: “We know how important the Stray is so we are doing everything in our powers to keep damage to a bare minimum.”
Preparation works will begin on the Stray the weekend before the Grand Depart and Tour de France organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), will arrive in Harrogate on July 2 to start preparing the finish line.
Mr McGivern added: “It is inevitable they have got to do some work in advance of the race.”
There are six other ‘key areas’ for spectators in the district, Masham, Ripon market place, which will be closed to traffic on Saturday July 5, Ripley, where 3,000 people are expected to camp, Killinghall, Hampsthwaite, Starbeck and Knaresborough.
A ‘mass migration’ of 25,000 cyclists camping at Harewood to Harrogate is expected after the race passes through the village.
Mr McGivern said: “Moving from area to area is not going to be possible because of the nature of the event so it is great that local areas have got their own hubs for the communities.”
And, as world class riders race through Knaresborough during the Grand Depart, the eyes of two cycling greats will be looking down on them.
Two Trompe l’oeil window murals of Beryl Burton and Brian Robinson have been unveiled at Knaresborough House, on the High Street.
Mr Robinson, the first Briton to win a Tour stage in 1958, was present at the unveiling of the murals, which have been produced by local artist Julie Cope and organised by Renaissance Knaresborough.
Also at the event were Mrs Burton’s daughter Denise Burton-Cole and the late cyclist’s husband Charlie.
Both Mrs Burton and her daughter cycled competitively for Knaresborough Cycling Club during their careers.
The unveiling of the murals is the latest cycling-themed development in the town, and means that the countdown to the Tour de France has well and truly kicked off in Knaresborough, said Andy Grinter of Renaissance Knaresborough.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the Tour de France coming through our high street,” he added.
Further preparations are being made for events surrounding the Grand Depart on July 5 and 6.
Knaresborough Market Place, which is an official spectator hub for Le Tour, will become an ‘Eat, Meet & Greet’ zone with picnic benches and umbrellas from July 4 to 6.
It will host HubGrub, bringing together the best in outdoor ‘street food’. The total cost for three days trading is £300. Contact Andy Grinter on 07728 415887 for information.
And the castle grounds will be full of thousands enjoying a giant screen beaming live coverage from a busy weekend of sport.
In addition, the special Tour de France Garden produced by Harrogate Borough Council for this year’s Harrogate Spring Flower Show is to go on permanent display near the World’s End pub.
Organisers of the Great Yorkshire Show, which will run from July 8 to 10, have stated it will be “business as usual” this year despite the fields being turned over to car parking for the Tour de France just two days before.
It has been revealed that fields surrounding Harrogate’s Great Yorkshire Showground are to accommodate up to 14,000 cars for visitors as the Tour de France comes to Harrogate on July 5 and 6.
RACE TIMINGS STAGE ONE SATURDAY JULY 5
Cyclists will ride through Ripon at 15:51
The Tour de France publicity caravan will pass by two hours before the riders in each area.
Harrogate - 16:20 (Tour also passes through Harrogate during stage two on Sunday July 6 at 12:01)
(Tour also passes through Knaresborough on Sunday July 6 at 11:51)