Tour de France Grand Depart diary

Sir Bradley Wiggins Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Bradley Wiggins, pictured in Los Angeles, has spoken of the growing popularity of the Tour of California

With the 101st Tour de France starting in Leeds on 5 July, BBC Yorkshire's Matt Slater rounds up the Grand Depart gossip, opinion and stories, as well as trying to shed some light on the race's mysterious ways.


Fan's guide With thousands of cycling fans expected in the Holme Valley to see stage two of the Tour de France this summer, a local cycling fan has posted a guide to the customs and quirks of Yorkshire folk on YouTube. Alistaire Macgregor's video suggests visitors swap bike helmets for flat caps, and trainers for clogs, while warning that brightly coloured jerseys could scare the sheep.

Full story: The Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Band on the run "Stirring" North Yorkshire-based folk-rock band Area 40 has recorded a song to celebrate the Tour's visit to the region. A video to accompany the song "Road Trip" sees the "duelling electric guitar/violin band" take to their bikes to enjoy the Grand Depart route. Duelling? Let's hope there's no road rage.

Full story: Harrogate Advertiser

Landscape artists Worth Valley's young farmers have been busy, and not just with lambing. "Fields of Vision" is the name of a grand project to mark July's Grand Depart. Part of the 100-day cultural festival in the build-up to the Tour, some of the hillsides around Haworth, Oxenhope and Stanbury will be transformed into giant pieces of land art. Using string, pegs, ribbon and liquid fertiliser, the farmers have teamed up with local artists to create a series of stunning images in the grass.

Full story: The Telegraph & Argus


Whatever you do in Belfast this weekend, do not call its "Big Start" a dress rehearsal for Yorkshire's "Grand Depart". The Giro d'Italia, the first Grand Tour of the 2014 season, rolls off a ramp in Belfast's Titanic Quarter this evening for the first of three thrilling days in Northern Ireland and Ireland, before jetting to southern Italy and 18 more days of racing. The opening ceremony took place at City Hall on Thursday night and it would be fair to say the good folk of Northern Ireland have entered into the spirit of things by turning the place pink.

Elsewhere, the Women's Tour of Britain heads into Essex for its third stage. Italy's Rossella Ratto won a wet second stage in Bedford on Thursday.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Rossella Ratto wins Stage Two of the 2014 Women"s Tour Of Britain from fellow Italian Susanna Zorz

And whilst most cycling aficionados will tell you the Giro is the only race that matters on the men's calendar this month, there is a growing body of opinion that the Tour of California is coming up hard on the rails. OK, it lacks the Giro's history and Grand Tour status, but it has a great field this year, including British stars Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. Wiggo, in fact, has said California was "an obvious choice over the Giro, to be honest", a statement that will not win him any friends in Italy.


"If you can't beat them, join them."

BBC Northern Ireland's Mark Simpson gets into the Giro d'Italia spirit by turning his Twitter profile picture pink.


D is for…

Diable Rouge - Dieter "Didi" Senft is German cycling fan in his 60s who has become a fixture at Le Tour over the last 20 years thanks to his appearances at the roadside dressed in a skin-tight, red devil suit. He accessories this outfit with a large golden trident, and usually paints tridents on the road to warn the TV commentators of his imminent arrival.

Domestique - Literally "servant", this term describes about two thirds of the field in a bike race. These are the guys on every team who shield their star rider from the wind, fetch food and clothing from the team cars, pace them back to the bunch if they crash or get a puncture, and even hand over their bikes to the leader if need be. The glory for a domestique comes when their rider wins, and all bonuses are shared.

Dossard - This is the number the riders pin to their jerseys, but the word means something slightly grander in the Tour context. It is the rider's attachment to the race, a symbol of his continuing involvement in it.


The Tour de France was launched in 1903 when the editor of an ailing newspaper, L'Auto, called a staff meeting to come up with ideas to boost the title's sales. The editor of the paper was Henri Desgrange, a former cyclist and velodrome owner, and the last to pipe up was a young reporter called Geo Lefevre. His idea was to take the popular format of a six-day bike race on the track to the highways and byways of France. Desgrange loved it and took it to his boss, who handed over the keys to the company safe, saying "take whatever you need": Le Tour was born, and L'Auto was saved.

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