There is more to the Tour de France than a simple cycle race.
The world’s most watched annual sporting event is crammed with traditions that make it even more of a must-watch spectacle.
Le Tour’s world famous publicity caravan is a 180-vehicle procession of elaborate floats that will roll through both Yorkshire stages on July 5 and 6 around two hours before riders pass by.
This year fans venturing out to watch the first three UK stages of the Grand Depart, including the July 7 Cambridge to London stage three, can look forward to being thrown millions of publicity materials from caps to badges.
Among the free caravan giveaways will be 60,000 packets of sweets from HARIBO UK, based in Pontefract, and 5million tea bags from Taylors of Harrogate.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The caravan will be something to behold, the sheer size and length of it is one of the elements of the Tour that draws so many spectators to the roadside.
“Yorkshire will never have seen anything quite like it and we hope that spectators will enjoy the experience and everything that comes with it.”
Stretching out 12km in length, the publicity caravan is an attraction in itself and takes around 40minutes to pass. It will roll from Leeds Headrow startline on Saturday at 9.10am, and then from York on Sunday at 9am.
Alongside global sponsors of the race, regional firms including Yorkshire Building Society, Sheffield Hallam University and Welcome to Yorkshire will be among this year’s caravan.
Another long-held tradition of the Tour has been making its way across the channel, with en route graffiti popping up on both the Leeds to Harrogate and York to Sheffield stages.
A Union Jack has been painted on the Grinton Moor climb near Reeth, North Yorkshire, while ‘Ey Up T de F’ has been painted on Penistone Road, above High Bradfield, Sheffield.
Tour organisers have neither discouraged or encouraged the tradition. A spokesman for TDFHUB2014 Ltd said: “Decorating the road with messages of support for favourite riders or the race itself is one of the traditions of the Tour.
“If spectators are planning on doing this, we would ask them to use spray chalk to ensure there is no risk of making the road surface slippery or causing a possible hazard for the riders or vehicles.
“The route will be monitored and checked regularly before the riders come through.”
A North Yorkshire County Council spokeswoman said the local authority is aware of the Union Jack near Reeth but has no immediate plans to remove it, stating it is recognised as “part of the culture of the race”.
She said graffiti will be viewed on a case by case basis, while a clean up post-race is anticipated.