Tour de France in York: A once in a lifetime experience

York Press: Welcome To Yorkshire chief exedcutive Gary Verity, left, and Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, in the lead car as the Tour De France heads into St Helen’s Square Welcome To Yorkshire chief exedcutive Gary Verity, left, and Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, in the lead car as the Tour De France heads into St Helen’s Square

STEPHEN LEWIS joined spectators in Duncombe Place.

YOU could hear the cyclists before you could see them: a swelling roar from the crowds lining Deangate and Minster Yard marking their progress.

Police bikes swept past the Minster into Duncombe Place. Bodies pressed against railings for a better view; children were hoisted on to shoulders, cameraphones raised high in anticipation.

“Here we go!” said an excited voice.

And then suddenly there the peloton was, swooping round the corner in a tightly massed group, the Minster rearing majestically behind. The crowds went wild. A thousand voices bellowed their welcome. Flags waved, handbells rang, children called excitedly, cameras clicked and clicked.

The faces of the leading riders split into involuntary grins at the sheer warmth of the reception. They flashed past, some bikes almost brushing the railings, so close were they. Then, almost before we’d had time to register they were there, they were gone again, disappearing, still tightly massed, around the sharp bend into St Leonard’s Place.

“That was so fast!” a little boy said. But there was no disappointment in his voice, or in the crowds lining the street: just a jumping sense of excitement; of occasion; of having been there for something special.

Four hours earlier, the centre of York had been oddly quiet. A couple of joggers were loping along New Walk beside the River Ouse; a dog walker passing them in the other direction. Could the world’s biggest cycle race really be in town?

St George’s Field car park was full of coaches turning and manoeuvring, however - the first indication this wasn’t just any day.

Orange-jacketed stewards could be seen on Skeldergate Bridge, and at 7.20am the first spectators were gathering on a traffic island at the Tower Street roundabout, staking out their places.

A few early morning cyclists riding up deserted Clifford Street were cheered and clapped by a noisy group of spectators camped out at the junction with Coppergate.

Clare Roberts, her friend Maxine Thompson, and Maxine’s children Ben, Bethany and Francesca had come from Middlesbrough. “It’s the Tour de France!” Ben said excitedly. Yes, but if they cheered every cyclist going past, wouldn’t their voices be worn out by the time the peloton got there?

“We’re doing it to keep warm!” Clare said. On Coney Street, street-cleaning supervisor Paul Wiley was ensuring his territory was spick and span. “We’ve been on since 10pm last night!” he said, showing no signs of exhaustion.

There were crowds building in St Helen’s Square; and more people lining Duncombe Place. As rain threatened then passed and the crowds increased, anticipation was growing. Just after 9am, the cavalcade arrived. Pretty girls bopping to the beat of blaring disco music tossed treats - pens, sweets, packets of Yorkshire tea - from floats shaped like giant wine bottles and ball-point pens. “Are you ‘appy?” bellowed a French voice through a loudhailer. “If you are, make some noise!”

We obliged. As 11am neared, the cacophony reached epic proportions: the Minster bells pealing, people laughing and shouting, handbells ringing, Klaxons sounding. A Lancaster bomber followed by a spitfire roared over our heads. And then, just after 11am, there they were, the ones we’d been waiting for: almost 200 cyclists, bunched into that peloton, not even racing yet, but loving every minute of what was happening. As were we.

Comments (11)

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9:46am Mon 7 Jul 14

CHISSY1 says...

I am not into cycling but what fantastic scenes,i really enjoyed watching.
I am not into cycling but what fantastic scenes,i really enjoyed watching. CHISSY1
  • Score: 17

10:51am Mon 7 Jul 14

Blimp says...

Really proud that York put on such a great party. And well done the press for highlighting the contribution made by "street-cleaning supervisor Paul Wiley" - it's the many (usually forgotten) people like him that really make the difference.

Brilliant, loved it! More please.
Really proud that York put on such a great party. And well done the press for highlighting the contribution made by "street-cleaning supervisor Paul Wiley" - it's the many (usually forgotten) people like him that really make the difference. Brilliant, loved it! More please. Blimp
  • Score: 29

12:11pm Mon 7 Jul 14

BillyJones87 says...

Couldn't agree more with the above comments.

An excellent few days, and an incredible advert for Yorkshire to the rest of the world.
Couldn't agree more with the above comments. An excellent few days, and an incredible advert for Yorkshire to the rest of the world. BillyJones87
  • Score: 18

3:05pm Mon 7 Jul 14

VinceYork says...

Any reason for York Council to actually clean the streets properly is worthy of a celebration.
Any reason for York Council to actually clean the streets properly is worthy of a celebration. VinceYork
  • Score: -4

3:14pm Mon 7 Jul 14

YorkPatrol says...

As long as the council don’t now suddenly expect everyone to go and buy a bike to commute to work and do their shopping on….
As long as the council don’t now suddenly expect everyone to go and buy a bike to commute to work and do their shopping on…. YorkPatrol
  • Score: -5

3:58pm Mon 7 Jul 14

Caralina22 says...

Well what next for York I have heard the National Moaning Championships are thinking of holding their next event here as many of the contestants actually live in York as we have seen on here moaning about people enjoying themselves, sport, Lycra ( such a dangerous fabric) cyclists, the Council, litter being cleared, a half day in their lives blah blah and on they go
Well what next for York I have heard the National Moaning Championships are thinking of holding their next event here as many of the contestants actually live in York as we have seen on here moaning about people enjoying themselves, sport, Lycra ( such a dangerous fabric) cyclists, the Council, litter being cleared, a half day in their lives blah blah and on they go Caralina22
  • Score: 9

5:42pm Mon 7 Jul 14

Romjim says...

Caralina22 wrote:
Well what next for York I have heard the National Moaning Championships are thinking of holding their next event here as many of the contestants actually live in York as we have seen on here moaning about people enjoying themselves, sport, Lycra ( such a dangerous fabric) cyclists, the Council, litter being cleared, a half day in their lives blah blah and on they go
I like your irony (or is it sarcasm?) about the moaners who populate The Press comments.
York is a great city and loved by many who enjoy the facilities of the city.
The moaners do not know how lucky they are and miss out on a very successful city in many, many ways.
The weekend for le Grand Depart was phenomenal and all the people I have spoken to about it really enjoyed the atmosphere and cheerfulness. I suspect the moaners had left York so that they could have a go at knocking somewhere else!!
[quote][p][bold]Caralina22[/bold] wrote: Well what next for York I have heard the National Moaning Championships are thinking of holding their next event here as many of the contestants actually live in York as we have seen on here moaning about people enjoying themselves, sport, Lycra ( such a dangerous fabric) cyclists, the Council, litter being cleared, a half day in their lives blah blah and on they go[/p][/quote]I like your irony (or is it sarcasm?) about the moaners who populate The Press comments. York is a great city and loved by many who enjoy the facilities of the city. The moaners do not know how lucky they are and miss out on a very successful city in many, many ways. The weekend for le Grand Depart was phenomenal and all the people I have spoken to about it really enjoyed the atmosphere and cheerfulness. I suspect the moaners had left York so that they could have a go at knocking somewhere else!! Romjim
  • Score: 8

6:08pm Mon 7 Jul 14

allijew says...

Fantastic ...But why were the streets still closed at 5pm and Park and Ride from Museum Street cancelled all day ?
Fantastic ...But why were the streets still closed at 5pm and Park and Ride from Museum Street cancelled all day ? allijew
  • Score: -1

7:53pm Mon 7 Jul 14

york_chap says...

After so much build-up it was amazing how quickly the race itself was over in York - after 20 mins or so the bike riders had left the city behind and the tv coverage of course had moved swiftly on with them.

On that note, I did think it was a shame that of the brief 15 mins or so the bike riders were actually in York, a good 5 minutes of potential coverage was lost to advert breaks. For kids and people interested in bicycle racing it must have been a good spectacle though. If only there could be a classic car or motorcycle race around York - or a running race would be fun.
After so much build-up it was amazing how quickly the race itself was over in York - after 20 mins or so the bike riders had left the city behind and the tv coverage of course had moved swiftly on with them. On that note, I did think it was a shame that of the brief 15 mins or so the bike riders were actually in York, a good 5 minutes of potential coverage was lost to advert breaks. For kids and people interested in bicycle racing it must have been a good spectacle though. If only there could be a classic car or motorcycle race around York - or a running race would be fun. york_chap
  • Score: 2

8:07pm Mon 7 Jul 14

allijew says...

After so much build-up it was amazing how quickly the race itself was over in York - after 20 mins or so the bike riders had left the city behind and the tv coverage of course had moved swiftly on with them.

On that note, I did think it was a shame that of the brief 15 mins or so the bike riders were actually in York, a good 5 minutes of potential coverage was lost to advert breaks. For kids and people interested in bicycle racing it must have been a good spectacle though. If only there could be a classic car or motorcycle race around York - or a running race would be fun.

I agree It would have been great to see Bootham, Clifton Green and Leeman Rd.
I purposely watched it on Television so I could see all of the York areas...It was brilliant though !
After so much build-up it was amazing how quickly the race itself was over in York - after 20 mins or so the bike riders had left the city behind and the tv coverage of course had moved swiftly on with them. On that note, I did think it was a shame that of the brief 15 mins or so the bike riders were actually in York, a good 5 minutes of potential coverage was lost to advert breaks. For kids and people interested in bicycle racing it must have been a good spectacle though. If only there could be a classic car or motorcycle race around York - or a running race would be fun. I agree It would have been great to see Bootham, Clifton Green and Leeman Rd. I purposely watched it on Television so I could see all of the York areas...It was brilliant though ! allijew
  • Score: 5

5:45am Tue 8 Jul 14

Caecilius says...

york_chap wrote:
After so much build-up it was amazing how quickly the race itself was over in York - after 20 mins or so the bike riders had left the city behind and the tv coverage of course had moved swiftly on with them.

On that note, I did think it was a shame that of the brief 15 mins or so the bike riders were actually in York, a good 5 minutes of potential coverage was lost to advert breaks. For kids and people interested in bicycle racing it must have been a good spectacle though. If only there could be a classic car or motorcycle race around York - or a running race would be fun.
Yes, it wouldn't have been asking much to postpone the 5 minute commercial break (15 minutes after the previous commercial break) until the riders were out in open countryside. It's pretty obvious that, when the Tour's going through a town, lots of current and former residents will want to see it go through their particular area. Same thing happened to a colleague of mine from Knaresborough, who was recording the coverage - when he played it back, it was cut off for yet more adverts just as the leaders were approaching the end of his street..
[quote][p][bold]york_chap[/bold] wrote: After so much build-up it was amazing how quickly the race itself was over in York - after 20 mins or so the bike riders had left the city behind and the tv coverage of course had moved swiftly on with them. On that note, I did think it was a shame that of the brief 15 mins or so the bike riders were actually in York, a good 5 minutes of potential coverage was lost to advert breaks. For kids and people interested in bicycle racing it must have been a good spectacle though. If only there could be a classic car or motorcycle race around York - or a running race would be fun.[/p][/quote]Yes, it wouldn't have been asking much to postpone the 5 minute commercial break (15 minutes after the previous commercial break) until the riders were out in open countryside. It's pretty obvious that, when the Tour's going through a town, lots of current and former residents will want to see it go through their particular area. Same thing happened to a colleague of mine from Knaresborough, who was recording the coverage - when he played it back, it was cut off for yet more adverts just as the leaders were approaching the end of his street.. Caecilius
  • Score: 0
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