Thousands of cyclists have rolled along a traffic-free route around Leeds city centre weeks before the Tour de France comes to town.
The second annual Sky Ride Leeds saw a record 4,000 people sign up to take part in today’s event, which set off from the same Headrow start line that Tour riders will when stage one of the Grand Depart begins on Saturday July 5.
Despite light rain on the day, thousands more participants cycled into the city to ride the 6.5km route, with organisers hoping numbers could hit 10,000.
Olympic track cycling champion Joanna Rowsell and Team Sky rider Ian Boswell led the ride off the line, as the Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun David Congreve waved the open-to-all ride into action.
The event came as the YEP continues to encourage people to get on their bikes ahead of the Grand Depart through our Let’s Get Cycling campaign, where we publish your two-wheeled stories and pictures.
Rowsell, 25, who is based close to the Grand Depart stage two route near Hebden Bridge, said: “Since I’ve been a cyclist there has been a massive increase in participation and enjoyment of it, and it’s really good to see that for yourself. There’s lots going on around the route, there’s something for everyone, and it’s pretty unique that people can ride part of the Tour route.”
People young and old saddled up for Sky Ride Leeds, which took in Leeds’ First Direct Arena, the University of Leeds and a festival and entertainment area at Woodhouse Moor.
Burley-in-Wharfedale resident Mark Hall, 49, cycled the Sky Ride for the second consecutive year with his 11-year-old son Josh.
He said: “The ride has been brought forward this year because of the Grand Depart, so it’s great to ride that first bit, especially as we live on the route – the Tour’s coming past our front door.”
This year’s event also involved an alternative shorter route for young children and families, riders with adapted bikes and those new to cycling, as well as a sprint section on The Headrow.
Coun Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for leisure and skills, said: “We’ve got double the amount of people registered compared to last year – it’s been really exciting.
“It’s great to see the people of Leeds experiencing what Tour riders will in just three weeks time.”
The event is one of 14 to be held nationally and is part of a continuing partnership between Leeds City Council, British Cycling, Sky and West Yorkshire Metro which aims to encourage more people to get cycling.
Visit www.goskyride.com for information on free local Sky bike rides or send your Let’s Get Cycling stories and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or @jonnybrownyep.