Widely regarded as one of the UK’s premier cycling cities, York has been gearing up for the once-in-a-lifetime visit of the world’s most celebrated two-wheeled spectacle.
As the host for the start of stage two of the Tour de France Grand Depart from Yorkshire, the city is pulling out all the stops to give the world’s greatest riders the best send off possible on Sunday July 6.
Yellow fever has already taken over the historic city, with the La Fete du Tour weekend of May 31 and June 1 being fully embraced through yellow bunting going up in Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square and Coney Street in the city centre.
Visitors were offered the chance to pose as Sir Bradley Wiggins, watch members of Ridings Light Theatre perform on a cycle-powered rotating stage and enjoy French and Yorkshire treats at special picnics and parties during the long-standing French traditional weekend which involves communities along the route celebrating Le Tour’s upcoming arrival.
Businesses have been backing Le Tour to be a success from the off, with the High Mill Pickering holiday lets being given a makeover to match the colours of Tour jerseys and more than 90 firms and 1,800 signing up to take part in the 2014 York Cycle Challenge to encourage more people to cycle to work.
Meanwhile York Brewery has launched its own celebratory ‘Velo-City’ ale flavoured with French hops. York-based singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin helped launch the beer, having recently penned and recorded the official Grand Depart anthem ‘The Road’.
Head brewer Nick Webster said: “This exceptional event called for a bespoke beer to mark the occasion. The brewers got their heads together and I know we have created something very special indeed.”
Griffin, who has also composed songs underpinning sporting events such as Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph, is also on the star-studded line-up for the Grand Departy Concert on Friday July 4.
He will join the likes of X Factor favourites Union J and Rough Copy along with tenor Russell Watson at a 10,000-capacity concert at York’s Huntington Stadium.
Elsewhere a special French-themed La Grande Soirée des Officiers Français reception and dinner at the Yorkshire Air Museum at RAF Elvington has been lined up to celebrate French Air Force officers’ contribution to York during the Second World War.
Profits from the £80-per-ticket event, which will celebrate the upcoming Tour and commemorate 70 years since 2,300 French airmen arrived at the base on July 2, will be donated to the Grand Depart’s official charity partner Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Yorkshire Festival arts highlights are also still to come in the city including the Tour de Brass finale by the Black Dyke Band at York Barbican on June 22, which follows a series of open-air brass concerts across the county, and the première of the Bike Story theatre production exploring everyday stories of the bicycle from June 20.
Figures released by the Office of National Statistics in 2011 showed York as being among the UK’s best cycling cities, with the proportion of workers commuting to work by bicycle standing at over 11 per cent - the fifth highest figure in the country.
York’s standing as a cycling hub for the north has helped to secure City of York Council the lead role in securing a two-wheeled legacy from the Grand Depart.
Cycle Yorkshire, which is being driven by the city’s authority, has the support of businesses, organisations and all of the county’s 21 local authorities in securing its aim of giving everyone in Yorkshire access to a bicycle by 2023.
The University of York is one of five regional institutions to agree to waive up to £45,000 in fees to back student research, most likely PhDs, examining the lasting impact of Le Tour in terms of health and economy.
Graham Titchener, regional director of Cycle Yorkshire, said: “Cycle Yorkshire exists to seize the momentum created by the world’s biggest annual sporting event coming to our region and working with Yorkshire Universities across a range of subjects will create opportunities for this and future generations.”
No fewer than four major official spectator hubs will cater to tens of thousands of expectant cycling fans and intrigued locals when Le Tour rolls into town next month.
York Racecourse, Huntington Stadium, York Designer Outlet and Rowntree Park will all host large screens featuring the day’s sporting action and family friendly activities until the early evening.
The city’s appetite for Le Tour has been evident from the start, after all 20,000 free tickets for the York Racecourse July 3 to 7 festival send-off were snapped up within four and a half hours in January.
The 6,000-capacity Huntington Stadium hub will host a cycle stunt show, exciting cycle activities, catering and more, while 3,000 fans can enjoy vintage stalls and a street theatre at York Designer Outlet and a family-friendly hub at Rowntree Park will offer stalls, food, alcohol-free drinks and an afternoon family film on July 6.
Coun Sonja Crisp, City of York Council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, said: “Besides being based at the hubs, people can line the route to the race and the full procession, they can head to York’s city centre for all the fun events and activities we’re laying on, or why not throw your own street Grand Departy to celebrate the day?”
The world’s top cyclists will ride from York Racecourse and then head up via Clifford’s Tower, wind through the city’s historic streets and past the spectacular Minster on July 6. The stage two race will leave York along Bootham, crossing Clifton Bridge and out on Boroughbridge Road to join the A59 through Green Hammerton and on towards Harrogate.
RACE TIMINGS STAGE ONE SUNDAY JULY 6
Cyclists will ride from York Racecourse at 11:00
The Tour de France publicity caravan will pass by two hours before the riders in each area.
York - 11:20