So yesterday saw the launch of the Grand Depart stages of the 2014 Tour de France with the great and good of the city jetting off to Paris for the day before returning for the ‘party’ at the Town Hall. This of course meant that the crucial stage details were known in the early part of the day and they are as follows:
Stage one, Saturday July 5: Leeds – Harrogate, 190km
The stage will start just outside Leeds Town Hall and feature two King of the Mountains climbs, one of which will be Buttertubs Pass. The race will pass through Harewood, Otley, Ilkley, Skipton, Kettlewell, Aysgarth, Hawes, Reeth, Leyburn and Ripon. However, the final 70km will be flat and the stage is designed to be a sprint finish. The final 400 metres in Harrogate are straight and flat.
Stage two, Sunday July 6: York – Sheffield, 200km
The second road stage of the 2014 Tour will be very different from the first and will be loaded with eight climbs in the final 60km – totalling 1400 metres of ascent, and including Holme Moss in the Pennines. The stage will pass through Knaresborough, Silsden, Keighley, Haworth, Hebden Bridge, Elland, Huddersfield and Holmfirth.
So much of the day was spent working out where I might position myself over the 2 days before heading down to London for Stage 3. I suspect in fact that much of the next year will be devoted to planning this. The route looks great for me but I was a bit surprised that it did not take in the East coast and North York Moors with a visit to Whitby for example. Anyway I’m sure much debate will rage on the routes but they look good to me and I saw something that said they will pass close to 98% of the Yorkshire population. Once the route launch was over then it was down to the Town Hall to see what was occurring. Typically the weather was more akin to the top of the Stelvio at the start of the Giro then a balmy summer in July but with good hardy humour a big crowd had taken over the headrow in front of the Town Hall and it was great to feel a sense of excitement and buzz about it all.
I could not help but wonder however why this was taking place on a Thursday night and not say on the weekend ? Also why, although there was a big shindig inside, very little was going on outside that I could make out. No team stalls represented, no merchandise, no street food, no bands or music, infact basically nothing other than a screen and a PA system that was not particularly audible. Room for improvement before 2014 I’d say. Still despite the sub zero temperatures and the snow the spirits of the cycling fans held up well and we were at least rewarded with a cracking firework display.