Le Grand Depart - a look ahead to the Tour De France in Yorkshire

PUBLISHED: 00:05 30 June 2014

The official painting for the Tour de France Grand Depart

The official painting for the Tour de France Grand Depart

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The white rose county turns yellow this month as one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles comes to Yorkshire. Andrew Vine looks at what the Tour de France holds

It promises to be the greatest sporting event Yorkshire has ever witnessed, a spectacular celebration of grit and endurance that will bring up to two million cheering spectators out.

From the buzz of the great cities of Leeds and Sheffield to the most picturesque parts of the Dales, Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France brings a whirlwind of excitement to Yorkshire on July 5th and 6th.

Much has been said about the huge potential it has to give Yorkshire a massive economic boost, bringing in as much as £100m and showcasing the county to a worldwide television audience of three billion people in 190 countries.

There is no denying staging Le Grand Depart is a coup for Yorkshire. The Tour de France is the biggest annual sporting event in the world, and the exposure and prestige that comes with it makes international competition to host it fierce. Yorkshire won, and the organisers are determined to put on an unforgettable show.

Saturday July 5th will see the party get under way, when stage one begins in Leeds and heads on a breathtaking journey through the Dales, passing Wharfedale, Bishopdale, Wensleydale and Swaledale, the grinding ascent of Buttertubs Pass and then towards Leyburn, before turning south for a sprint finish into Harrogate.

Sunday July 6th will see stage two, from York to Sheffield, taking in Haworth, Keighley, Knaresborough, Huddersfield, Holmfirth and the Peak District National Park.

Then the race bids a fond farewell to Yorkshire and heads south for stage three, from Cambridge to London, on July 7th.

Staging Le Grand Depart to Yorkshire has involved a major logistical operation. At its heart is Nicky Roche, chief executive of TDFHub 2014 Ltd, the organising committee.

She said: ‘It’s the biggest annual sporting event in the world and we’ve really had quite a short time to prepare; it’s been about 18 months to two years. So just in terms of planning all that, making sure you’ve got the stewards, barriers, toilets – all the things that the great crowds are going to need - we’ve really had to plan ahead to make sure we can get them where we want to, and make sure it’s all within budget.

‘It’s a really big operation, almost like a military operation, you’ve got to be absolutely systematic. We’ve been absolutely methodical, established what our requirements are, and made sure we’ve got a plan.’

The plan involves an extensive series of road closures during the two days, and parts of the Dales will be effectively cut off whilst the race passes through. Spectators are being urged to get there as early as possible – even to the extent of staying overnight.

Thousands are expected to camp the night before, and additional buses and trains are being laid on to get people to where they want to be.

Spectator hubs across the two days will host crowds ranging from 1,500 people to 15,000, who when the race has passed them will be able to watch it continuing on giant screens.

An army of volunteers has been recruited to give the warmest of Yorkshire welcomes to the vast crowds, as well as ensure that staging such a massive event runs smoothly.

They are the Tour Makers, about 12,000 of them, from all walks of life, who will marshal the route. Yorkshire-based supermarket giant Asda is providing food and clothing for them.

Some of the figures are staggering – more than 5,000 hotel rooms are needed every night just for the teams, tour personnel and the more than 2,000 journalists from across the globe who are reporting on the race.

Running in tandem with the spectacle is a concerted effort to ensure Yorkshire makes the most of hosting the race. From July 2nd to 4th, a business festival is being staged, with the aim of generating £20m of new trade by demonstrating what Yorkshire has to offer.

And further global exposure will be guaranteed thanks to a glittering Tour de France team presentation ceremony – the biggest in the event’s history – at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on July 3rd, attended by the biggest stars from all 22 teams taking part.

For Nicky, who played a key role in organising the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, it’s about making sure Yorkshire has an unforgettable weekend. ‘We’re really trying to help people have a fantastic time. That’s what it’s about,’ she said. ‘Of course, it’s an unticketed event, and that’s one of the great challenges as well as one of the great joys, because it’s one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles.

‘I had about seven years for the Olympics and Paralympics, but this has been about nine months. We’re into the last throes of it now, and it’s been a bit like giving birth, but it will be fantastic.’

Where are you going to be as the race dashes by? Tweet your experiences and pictures @Yorkshire_Life

There is bound to be a good deal of disruption to travel over the weekend. Be prepared and plan ahead. Full updates and information including where to view and all road closures can be found at letouryorkshire.com. Make the most of the weekend - find out what else is going on in Yorkshire at letour.yorkshire.com

Rolling hills

Alister Colley is the official artist of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014 and has commemorated the historic sporting occasion with the production of a painting that reflects Yorkshire’s rolling landscapes full of cyclists pedalling past a backdrop of some of the county’s key landmarks.

There are 28 pan-Yorkshire locations and landmarks featured in the imagined landscape including the whale bones at Whitby, Sheffield’s famous Crucible Theatre, the Yorkshire coast, Bronte Parsonage and Ribblehead Viaduct.

‘My wife and I honeymooned in the south of France in 2007, two weeks before the region was due to host their stage of the Tour de France,’ said Alister who works out of Pateley Bridge. ‘It was crazy; you couldn’t cross the road for amateur cyclists arriving well in advance of the event. Hotels, restaurants and cafes were packed with tourists and fans arriving early, the enthusiasm was contagious but we were due to leave and we felt we were about to miss out on an amazing party.

‘So when we found out that the Grand Départ was to be held in Yorkshire, we were determined; not only that we wouldn’t miss out this time, but that somehow, someway we would love to get involved. Being privileged enough to have been chosen as the official artist of the Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014 is exciting enough but to be depicting the county I have lived in all my life and with which my work has become synonymous is even more exhilarating and rewarding. I am very proud.’

Prints of the official painting are available in two sizes: 1,007 Fine Art Limited Edition prints at 36” x 18” (91.4cm x 45.7cm) retailing at £1,100 and 1,007 Fine Art Limited Edition prints at 26” x 13” (66cm x 33cm) retailing at £650. Orders for the official painting can be placed at zeitgeistfineart.com

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