Ragtime Cyclist column

Cyclists take advantage of the good weather.
Cyclists take advantage of the good weather.
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As anyone with even a passing interest in cycling, or simply one eye on the national news, will have noticed, the weekend of the July 5 and 6 saw the Tour de France visit Yorkshire for the first time.

When this event was announced a couple of years ago it was difficult to imagine what it would be like to have the historic race pass by so closely, but even the most optimistic among us couldn’t have imagined the sheer scale of the event, and the turnout from the British public.

The crowds that filled the squares and the green spaces of Leeds, Harrogate and Sheffield, lined the streets through every town and village along the route, and generally turned great expanses of Yorkshire into giant campsites, can only be described as Olympian.

Even the boss of the Tour de France got swept up in the atmosphere, describing the weekend as the grandest ever Grand Depart.

Rumour has it that negotiations have already started to bring the race back to these shores again.

With a young family in tow, I decided against braving the elements out on course and opted to head to Leeds on the Saturday morning for the start of the race.

Even this apparently civilised approach to spectating had its moments.

The slow train from Lancaster to Leeds, out through Wennington, Bentham, Giggleswick and the rest, resembled the London tube at rush hour, with thousands of us crammed together like sardines and leaving crowds at every station unable to board the train.

At one point the guard came over the tannoy to announce that he’d lived in Skipton for 45 years and had never seen anything like this.

In Leeds itself the atmosphere was like one large street party, with people wandering around dressed in polka dots and yellow jerseys, and crowded ten deep along the roadside.

Not quite the drama that was to be found up the hills and along the valleys of Yorkshire perhaps, but we can say we were part of this great event, and the general consensus was that the crowds were the star of the show.

If only Mark Cavendish had stayed upright on the run to the finish line in Harrogate – a British winner on stage one would have made it the perfect day.