This year was the fourth time the Tour de France has been in England, and the longest time it’s spent here. Previous encounters include: Plymouth in 1974, Dover and Brighton on 1994, and London and Cantebury in 2007.
The 2014 Tour de France opening weekend in Yorkshire was a huge occasion, with Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton attending to meet and greet the likes of Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish (pre-crash), to wish them good luck on their 3 week war on tarmac. The Television broadcasts were nothing short of breathtaking, with Brits astonished at the quality of the scenery, feeling proud of our little island after the combination of this and hosting the 2012 London Olympics. For a weekend we felt very significant in the world of sports – as long as we nobody mentioned the ‘f’ word of course.
Huge screens filled the event, broadcasting the entire race for all to see in giant proportions – once you’ve had your swoosh of the peloton it can get a little, well, empty – thousands of enthusiasts congregated on a bank, cheering and celebrating the day’s events on the screen while live commentators boomed over the visuals.
But besides the brand stalls, gift shops and food stands, a there was a little extra on the day to make it a proper opener…
The Red Arrows and The Army
The RAF Red Arrows were present, performing their signature flips and blowing out red, white and blue smoke across the Yorkshire skies to celebrate the British and French colours. The British Army were also there, supplying fun for kids and adults, including a bouncy castle, a go kart track, mock bunkers and an array of military-related interactive activities. All in all it felt very British indeed, and spirits were high for the start of the world’s toughest bike race.
The Royals cutting the ribbon
The Royal presence of Will, Harry and Kate also helped to sky-rocket moral into new heights, and as mention earlier, the combination of the Olympics, Jubilee and le Tour was a brilliant thing for the country, as all present were delighted and proud to be there.
After a helicopter landing and a quick chat with Froomey, they were off to cut the ribbon and unleash the riders.
Extra curricular activity
The official Tour de France vans and dancers kept the crowd entertained, and if simply watching cycling wasn’t enough for you, you could’ve entered a duathlon on the day, displaying the accessibility of the sport for enthusiasts of all ages. BMX stunt displays were dotted around the events area along with plenty of other bike-riding spectacles and merchandise stalls.
The way Britain pulled off the Tour de France Grand Depart was nothing short of spectacular, bringing the best of British as well as showing a huge support for France and the other international riders. Endurance sports as a category are growing in the UK, in both participation and spectatorship, and the future looks promising form here.
You can follow our Tour de France 2014 coverage here.