WITH only three days to go, York is gearing up for a big Grand Départ welcome. The 2014 Tour de France officially begins in Leeds on Saturday. But Day 2 sets off from the Knavesmire on Sunday. And the city is bringing out the bunting for the occasion.
Everywhere you look there are yellow-painted bicycles chained to lamp-posts; quirky shop-window displays; and Tour-themed works of art. One bridal wear boutique in Goodramgate has four Tour-themed wedding dresses in one window – one yellow, one green, one white and one polka-dot to represent the colours of the four Tour leaders’ jerseys – and a polka-dot bike in the other.
The bike is supposed to represent the colours of the ‘King of the Mountains’, says Alison Huxley, manager of Andrea Bambridge Bridal. It was made by her husband Adam. “We tried a tandem – a bicycle made for two – but it wouldn’t fit in the window,” she says.
Not to be outdone, staff at The Miniature Scene of York in Monkgate have created a Tour de France scene in the window, complete with bikes screaming past a mock-up of miniature York buildings.
Yellow-painted bikes are everywhere – outside Bettys, in the grounds of local schools, in people’s gardens and even slung beneath the window of one property in Bishopthorpe Road. And there is a host of banners, quilts and bunting too.
In the window of High Petergate needlecraft shop The Viking Loom there hangs a giant Tour-themed quilt made up of 48 squares. ‘York 2014’, says one; ‘Le Tour’, says another - alongside a Yorkshire Y and a white rose. York people will have the chance to vote for their favourite square – and ultimately the whole quilt will be raffled in aid of the British Heart Foundation and Marie Curie Cancer Care.
In Cemetery Road, meanwhile – hanging on the railings of York cemetery – are three giant willow racing bikes, made by artists Belinda Noda and Leonie Willett from willow that grew in the cemetery grounds. The cycles are “quietly heading toward York to take their place in the great race,” says York resident Belinda.
York’s preparations for the race have been hugely creative, saysYork council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism Sonja Crisp.
“Over 120 groups have joined our arts and culture festival York: Be Part of It and hundreds of yellow bikes and flower displays are springing up all over,” she says.
“Come the weekend there’ll be entertainment from the Grand Départy concert boasting an amazing line-up rarely seen in York, to the fun lined up at our four spectator hubs, to communities pulling out the stops to create a carnival atmosphere in areas like Bishopthorpe Road. Everyone’s efforts are building up to what promises to be an amazing event.”
Roll on Sunday...