Tour de France Grand Depart diary

The Ghost Peloton
Image caption The celebration of cycling played to sell-out crowds in Leeds

With the world's biggest bike race starting in Leeds on 5 July, BBC Yorkshire's Tour de France correspondent Matt Slater rounds up the best of the gossip, opinion and stories, on and off the bike, and also tries to explain some of cycling's unique lingo.


Just in time A huge and elaborate clock in a very public place, counting down to a special occasion: what can possibly go wrong? Well, as viewers of the Olympic documentary, sorry, satire "Twenty Twelve" will remember, countdown clock-ups can be embarrassing. So it is with genuine joy that I announce Yorkshire's Grand Depart clock is up and still running in the Trinity Leeds shopping centre. Originally intended to count down from 100 days, it was decided 50 days was probably more than enough excitement. Various bells and "confetti cannons" will signal the big day's arrival in case you do not notice the closed roads, helicopters overhead and Belgians camping in your garden.

Full story: Yorkshire Evening Post

Wheels not wheelie bins It's not cheap, and nobody asked us if we wanted it, but the Tour de France should be worth every penny to local people up here. That appears to be the message from Richmondshire District Council leader John Blackie after he revealed the North Yorkshire district's budget for Le Tour had doubled to £200,000, despite a funding squeeze from central government forcing him to cut services elsewhere. "We were imposed from on high, which meant we had to do it, but I'm pleased it happened that way," said Blackie, in true glass-half-full style.

Full story: The Northern Echo

Big Business The main reason why Blackie is able to say bringing Le Tour to Richmondshire is a good swap for having to charge people for garden waste collections was spelled about by Yorkshire Bank's chief economist on Friday. Tom Vosa told a business forum in Leeds that tourism has been "under-performing in recent years" but Le Tour will provide a "renewed focus on this area" which will be good for jobs. Nodding sagely in the front row was Sir Rodney Walker, the chairman of the Grand Depart's organising committee. He said the race will bring in "tens of millions of pounds to the local economy". Not bad for 200 blokes on bikes, but I still worry about those grass clippings.

Full story: Halifax Courier

Bright lights, big city Crucial to realising the tourism dividend will be making people notice your bit of Yorkshire for longer than the 30 seconds it might take for the riders to flash past, which is why events such as the "Ghost Peloton" in Leeds are so important. The cycling-club-meets-stage-school collaboration, with added neon, played to two sell-out crowds at the former Tetley Brewery over the weekend.

Full Story: BBC News


"God willing, 2 weeks (from) now I'll be reaching Harrogate have cycled day 1 of @letouryorkshire #BringItOn"

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity, the man whose idea it was to bring Le Tour to these parts, nails his Lycra to the mast by announcing his plan to ride the route of the first stage on 1 June. No backing out now, Gary, and you will have nobody else to blame but yourself.


On the eve of the Tour of California, Sir Bradley Wiggins said it was an "obvious choice" to ride that race instead of taking another swing at the Giro d'Italia, despite the Giro being one of cycling's three Grand Tours, and the Tour of California being, well, not one of cycling's three Grand Tours. But there was clearly a lot to like about a week of racing on America's West Coast for a music-loving hipster with ambitions of becoming cycling's David Beckham, and a dislike of riding down steep mountains on wet roads. Given how things have played out in California and Northern Ireland/Italy over the last week or so, Wiggo appears to have made a very sensible choice.

But does that make him an "obvious choice" for Team Sky's Tour de France line-up? Hmmm, cycling history is littered with examples of teams who tried to serve more than one master in a big race. Wiggins was the right man to lead in 2012, but Chris Froome is Team Sky's head honcho now. Wiggins seems to get that now, which is to his credit, but we will only really know that for sure if we see him shepherding Froome over Alpine passes in the same way Froome helped him. OK, not quite the same way, but an in-form and motivated Wiggins is definitely an asset at Le Tour, and he is now definitely in-form and motivated.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Cadel Evans continues his renaissance at the Giro

Meanwhile, the man who Wiggins followed as Tour champion, Australia's Cadel Evans, continues his own renaissance at the Giro. The 2011 Tour winner has a lead of 57 seconds over Colombia's Rigoberto Uran, and a gap of one minute, 45 seconds to pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana, another Colombian. Monday is a rest day at the race, with the real battles still to come next weekend.


J is for…

Jours de repos - How fitting that I can only think of one "j" - the French term for "rest day" - on the day the Giro's riders down tools. There are typically two of these in a Grand Tour, although the Giro has sneaked in a third to enable the race to get from Ireland to southern Italy. This year's rest days at Le Tour come after the 10th and 15th stages, but they are typically very busy days for whoever is leading the race, and for those whose job it is to ask them questions.


In honour of Sir Bradley Wiggins' first stage-race win since last year's Tour of Britain (and only his second since the 2012 Tour de France), let us turn the clock back, hopefully without breaking it (see above), to his first ever stage-race victory, which actually came a lot longer ago than many might think. The common view of Wiggins is that he did not really take road racing seriously until after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he won his second and third gold medals on the track. But the British star had already enjoyed some success on the road before taking his talents indoors.

A 21-year-old Wiggins won the overall titles at the Cinturon a Mallorca and Fleche du Sud, two small stage-races in Mallorca and Luxembourg, in 2001. The Spanish race was removed from the European calendar in 2011, but the five-day Fleche du Sud is still going strong. Wiggins did not add to these early road wins until 2009, by which time he had already stunned the cycling world with a superb display at that summer's Tour. Although given what he had done eight years before, perhaps we should not have been that surprised.

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