Wondering why the Tour de France is starting in Yorkshire? Don’t know your yellow jersey from your green? Fear not - ahead of 2014’s race, ITV’s legendary commentator Phil Liggett is here to help get us geared up
Head to Yorkshire this summer and you’ll be greeted with some unusual sights and sounds.
In Huddersfield, your ears might prick up at the sounds of musicians plucking guitar strings that have been wired across old bicycle frames, or playing handlebar trumpets.
On the South Pennines, you might gaze upon one of many giant land art installations, including Louise Lockhart’s of a lady cyclist which has been embossed into the field by the tracks of cyclists following its outline.
But all this fanfare isn’t just for folly. With the annual Tour de France starting in Yorkshire this year – and the boost the sport has had since Team GB’s impressive run of Olympic medal sweeps – it’s no wonder the self-proclaimed God’s own county is pulling out all the stops to show itself off and celebrate cycling.
The chance to be seen via TV in the homes of 188 countries worldwide certainly isn’t an opportunity England’s largest county is squandering.
The start of the Tour, the Grand Depart, is often outside of France. This year’s starts in Leeds and continues in the UK for three days, passing through Harrogate, York, Sheffield, Cambridge and London.
“From a cycling and spectating viewpoint, the roads in Yorkshire are fantastic, because they’re narrow,” says Liggett. However, this isn’t necessarily good news for the cyclists.
“The famous dry stone walls and narrow bridges and sharp descents are all big challenges to a big peloton of the Tour de France, because these guys are racing for nearly £500,000 in prize money for the winner so they’re very cautious, and they’re a bit worried about the roads in Yorkshire being too narrow for the job.”
THE SET UP
Coverage starts on ITV and ITV4 on Saturday, July 5 and will be presented by Gary Imlach, with reports from Ned Boulting and Matt Rendell and commentary from Chris Boardman as well as Liggett and Sherwen.
“The average spectator spends six hours waiting roadside for the riders to come past. But they won’t be ‘tyre-ing’ of the scenery in Yorkshire. From what I hear, the villages and the towns have gone completely crackers. They’re so enthusiastic, it’s unbelievable,” says Liggett. “I heard a story only this morning that there’s a cafe on the Yorkshire Moors that’s painted itself white with red spots, which is the King Of The Mountain jersey. So they’re all set up. Another antique shop is selling clocks made from bicycle parts. Betty’s Cafe, which is always well known to cyclists, is now being exposed around the world in stories and it’s been quite amazing.”
Liggett and Sherwen have become known for their lyrical insights into the countryside, cattle breeds and landmarks along the route, as well as their invaluable cycling observations.
Such is the power of the footage of France in all its beauty and their accompanying insights, Liggett admits many people email him saying they’re booking their next holidays on the Tour route.
But he’s quick to downplay this knowledge: “The French organisers send a woman out on the race route six months before the Tour begins, and she logs every single monument on the route then writes the book, and that book is given to us on the start line.
“So we seem to be absolutely brilliant in our knowledge, but in fact we’re frantically looking for the picture so we can match it up with what is on the television screen. If in doubt, you just say, ‘Louis XVIII lived there’, or, ‘Louis XIV lived there’. You can’t go wrong.”
For travel updates in race week @TdFYorkstravel
By train to Yorkshire
Travelling by train to Leeds, Ilkley, Skipton, Harrogate, York, Knaresborough, Keighley, Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield and Sheffield delivers you within walking distance of the Tour de France route – plus Grand Départ Spectator Hubs and community events guaranteed to give you a day out to remember.
As well as the tradition roadside options, this year’s Yorkshire Grand Depart and UK Tour have set up Spectator Hubs and Fan Parks.
Located at key points on the routes, you can see the riders battling it out for the Yellow Jersey surrounded by some of the region’s most spectacular scenery including castles, fortresses, and ancient market towns.
For those with disabilities and mobility issues a number of the spectator hubs have accessible facilities.
Most hubs can hold upwards of 5,000 people - some as many as 10,000 or more - and with other, smaller hubs around 1,500 - 3,000.
On July 5/6 the Mytholmroyd Gala offers local people and visitors the opportunity to watch the race on a Big Screen and enjoy live entertainment.
A Big Screen will show Stage 2 of the race at Pollination Street in Todmorden. Party in the Park on July 5 will feature a variety of entertainment for all ages.
Ripponden Bank will host a public event for approximately 4,000 people, though it is envisaged this area will be extremely busy. Refreshments will be available. On July 5 a farmers market will feature local produce.
Crescent Gardens, Harrogate Adjacent to the route, this is a great place to see the sprint finish midway along its route from New Park roundabout to the West Park finish line. A big screen and viewer facilities with be in place on both July 5/6, as well as access to the Tourist Information Centre, Museum, Art Gallery and Valley Gardens.
Spread out over the entire town and the whole race weekend, and within 100 metres of the actual Tour de France route and located next to the beautiful River Ure, savour the atmosphere and watch the entire race in comfort on a Big Screen located on the spacious recreation grounds.The evening of Friday, July 4before the race sees live music and a gala concertby Joe Longthorne at Masham Town Hall (Tickets 01765 680 200).
Pool - A family-themed event on Saturday 5 July with entertainment, rides, cycling activities and a Big Screen relaying the race with capacity for around 6,000 people. Children’s races and fun activities will include a climbing wall, archery, golf, ‘zorb balls’, bungee trampolining and an assault course. With accessible parking, gourmet food stalls, live music from local acoustic acts and refreshments, there’s something for all the family to enjoy, with visitors encouraged to stay after the race has left to take part in a mass family picnic.
Honley Extravaganza - Running on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 July, Honley village centre and other venues will play host to a good old-fashioned Yorkshire Street Festival with food, crafts and entertainment, including a packed programme of amazing acts within the grounds of Honley Cricket Club where you can also follow the sporting action on screen, or visit the village hall for a traditional French boules competition.
Huddersfield’s outdoor Concert on the Hill takes place on Saturday 5 July at the YMCA, featuring award-winning Lindley Brass Band, male voice choirs, soprano Julia Garbutt, and firework finale. Camp overnight and watch the race the next day.
As the light fades, follow the route of the Grand Départ through an outdoor gallery that includes giant paintings and illuminated landmarks, or stroll up to Holme Moss summit to see hundreds of flags by Wendy Meadley framing the sunset.
And as Saturday arrives, so will the crème de la crème of international street performers and dances, playfully echoing the physicality of the imminent cyclists. Find our more »
Littleborough - There will be a Big Screen in Harehill Park, Littleborough.
Blackstone Edge - Blackstone Edge will have a spectator hub by the reservoir with refreshments and toilet facilities.
Bainbridge - Watch first-hand from the village green as the Tour comes through Bainbridge, then be entertained afterwards with the village activities whilst keeping an eye on the race on the Big Screen.
East Witton - With a Big Screen on the traditional village green, a range of food will be available all day with games for both young and old, camping, car parking and picnic sites.
Low Row - Directly on the route of the Tour, Rowleth End will be hosting a festival for 2,000 people with Premium Yorkshire Food and Drink, as well as a Big Screen.
Middleham - With a Big Screen and village activities in and around the heart, Middlehams is very close to the route.
Reeth - See the famous peloton from the village green, as the riders descend from Swaledale and their King of the Mountains test.
West Burton - The race passes very close to the village and a fun-filled evening is planned for after the race with children’s games, a live band and a barbeque.
West Tanfield, Hambleton - Come along to the beautiful village of West Tanfield where you will find a vibrant festival for up to 10,000 people of live music, camping, themed street markets, sponsored stalls and displays, food outlets, big screen features and even hot air balloons! With ample car parking.
The Hepworth - Free family fun at The Hepworth Wakefield, 5 and 6 July
Join The Hepworth Wakefield for a weekend of cycling family fun. Create a giant artwork viewable from the air, pedal as fast as you can to power a Scalextrics track and film screening, and test your skills on a range of unconventional bikes. Fun for families of all ages! Find out more: www.hepworthwakefield.org/