THEY were getting in the party mood early in Bishopthorpe Road.

It had barely gone 1pm - still a good 90 minutes before the first cyclists were due to appear - but the bunting and flags were out in force.

In his raised garden with a great view of where the cyclists would shortly flash past, Greg Thornton - neatly dressed in yellow Dickie bow and flat cap - was cooking up a barbie for a few friends.

"Would you like a sausage?" he asked.

Further up the road towards town, the E by Eck Tour de Yorkshire party was in full swing. The little car park on the corner of Scarcroft Road was heaving: a bouncy castle in the corner, beer tent, craft stalls, and a main stage where a three-piece band of guitarists/ singers was belting out Beatles numbers. "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you, tomorrow I'll miss you..." they sang, while a little girl bopped away madly, watched by proud parents.

There was barely room to move outside the Bishy Road shops, where race stewards were doing a sterling job of keeping people behind the railings which lined the street. A cyclist dressed as a woolly sheep - complete with ram's horns - went past, to appreciative cheers.

A little further up, past the crowds, Geoffrey Bellis had pulled a wooden chair up beside the road, and was sitting there contentedly, pint in hand.

Was he a cyclist? "No! I've got false knees!" It turned out Geoffrey, from 'across the mire' in Dringhouses, had come to watch his grandson, Adam Holmes, who'd been playing in a jazz band on the Swan Green stage. "We don't have a name yet," Adam, 15, admitted.

Geoffrey's daughter Angela was there too. "It's a lovely atmosphere!" she said.

By now, the crowds were getting even thicker, if that was possible - lining both sides of the narrow street of shops.

Michael Miller and his wife Debbie had come all the way from Bridlington, where they'd watched the start of the Tour the day before.

"We went over to Shipley for the Tour de France last year," he said. "It was brilliant. This is brilliant! It's really putting Yorkshire on the map."

By now the first police outriders were coming down the road, high-fiving the crowds lining the railings, one even doing a little jig in his seat.

"He's dancing, that one!" giggled Jacquie Thompson, there with her husband Simon. "I think they're enjoying it more than the cyclists!"

The leading cyclists flashed past, a blur of colour, legs pumping - followed a minute or so later by the peloton.

It was the first of three sweeps along Bishopthorpe Road as the exhausted cyclists completed a double circuit of York before racing for the finishing line at the Knavesmire.

Each time they passed, they were cheered to the rafters. But, in typical British fashion, it was the stragglers who generated the biggest cheers of all.

"He looks shattered!" said Jacquie, as a loan straggler struggled past, minutes behind the leaders. "This is the one I want to win!"

He didn't, of course. That honour went to the Dutch rider Moreno Hofland.

But the real winner of a brilliant day, without a doubt, was Yorkshire. Roll on next year...