The greatest cycle race on the planet is not just an occasion for bike race and sports fans. It is for everyone. Nick Westby gives some hints and tips as to how best enjoy the moment.
The moment has come.
All the planning, all the advertising, all the road closures, all the anticipation, and all for this – the Tour de France right here on our very own picture-perfect rural roads and gritty urban streets.
Cycling is a ‘blink and you will miss it’ sport but a Tour de France is so much more than just cyclists hurtling past.
It is sporting theatre. It is sport at the highest level. It is the chance to see sporting heroes at their very best on the greatest stage.
It is a day for the kids. It is an occasion for families to embrace. It is a weekend to savour.
Why else would makeshift camp sites lining the route already be filling up?
Why else would the region be gripped by cycling fever?
It is true that on some parts of the route you may only see the 198 riders pass you in a whole bunch. One second they are in front of you, the next, they are gone.
Even if your experience is that brief it still possesses the ability to take the breath away.
Just observing from the roadside as the peloton surges past is like standing in front of a giant air-conditioning unit, such is the gust of wind the riders create.
Even watching them approach, jostling for position all flailing arms and shoulders, is a sight to behold.
If you are lucky enough to position yourself on one of the climbs this weekend, up Buttertubs Pass, Holme Moss, Jawbone Hill or Jenkin Road etcetera, then watching the best riders in the world strung out up those climbs, turning their wheels over as they grimace for oxygen, their faces etched in agony, will be a rare thrill.
On the backside of climbs, watch closely as the riders drop down into aerodynamic bullets as they descend our hills with the stunning Broad Acres unfolding beyond them. If you are stationed in Leeds or York for one of the starts, be sure to take a stroll through the parked buses of the 22 teams. Not only will you see team mechanics working on the cyclists’ bikes, but you will also get under the noses of the stars themselves as they are warming up, relaxing and preparing for the next five or so hours in the saddle.
Many of them will stop to sign autographs or even share a few words.
It is all part of the Tour de France circus.
As is the publicity caravan that precedes the peloton, weaving through the route some 90 minutes before the cyclists themselves.
Tour sponsors shower the crowds with music, entertainment and free gifts – so getting there early to witness that is a must for kids especially.
Tour de France organisers Amaury Sports Organisation chose Yorkshire because of its wonderful scenery and its beautiful countryside, all of which will be looking resplendent today.
The ceremonial start at Harewood House in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Prince Harry will provide a moment in history for the region, while Sunday’s start in York, under the towering gaze of York Minster will provide a stunning backdrop.
There is no doubting that Yorkshire is braced to play its part in the biggest sporting event ever to hit the region.
Two million of you will line the 390 kilometres of route over the two days, with your faces painted and your flags waving.
Embrace this opportunity while you can. If you are not a cycling fan, head to the major cities and towns to drink in the atmosphere, the anticipation and the general joie de vivre.
Take the kids along and let the moment captivate them.
If you are a cycling fan then you already know what to do.
Whoever you are, and wherever you are this weekend, make sure you savour the Tour de France.
You don’t want to be one of those who says ‘I blinked and I missed it’.