Tour de France in Yorkshire diary

Cycle-themed decoration on canal boat Canal boats at the Skipton Waterway Festival at the weekend were decorated to mark the Tour de France

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, and also tries to explain some of cycling's mysteries.

TOP STORIES

Spectator hubs Football-style "fan zones" with big screens, refreshments and other entertainments - are one of the big innovations that Yorkshire is bringing to the Tour de France this year, and after the first batch were announced last month, new venues are being confirmed all along the Grand Depart route.

York, where the second stage starts on 6 July, now has four hubs, with three more being added at Monk Stray, Rowntree Park and York Designer Outlet. The city's first hub, at the stage's start at York Racecourse, proved very popular, with 20,000 free tickets being snapped up in a matter of days.

More than 20 hub venues have now been revealed, and it is expected that there will be 30 across the three days of Tour in England.

Full story: York Press

Picture this London-born Graham Watson has been taking photographs of the Tour de France for 30 years, and his super snaps have appeared in leading titles across the globe. Now his work will be showcased in an exhibition at Leeds' White Cloth Gallery from 22 May until the end of Tour on 27 July. Watson started off as an assistant to a photographer who specialised in taking pictures of foreign royals, but soon graduated to capturing the exploits of cycling's aristocracy.

Full story: Yorkshire Evening Post

Italian job The Tour is still two months away but there is a very big bike race starting not too far away from Leeds this week: the Giro d'Italia. Cycling's second most prestigious Grand Tour is starting outside mainland Europe for the first time this Friday when three days of racing in Northern Ireland and Ireland begins in Belfast. There are many similarities between the two races, and what the respective authorities want to achieve by staging the races on their patches. But there is one big difference: the colour scheme. Where Le Tour sees yellow, Il Giro goes pink.

Full story: The Guardian

Sheep dyed pink A sheep dyed pink to welcome the arrival of the Giro d'Italia cycle race in Northern Ireland
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TWEET OF THE DAY

Dan Martin ‏@DanMartin86 tweets: Still a surreal feeling to be sat at the airport flying to Belfast for the giro. #onthewayireland

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CYCLING ROUND-UP

With the first of cycling's three Grand Tours (the three-week slogs around France, Italy and Spain) starting on Friday, it is a relatively straightforward week in terms of the often confusing global cycling calendar. Those not going to Belfast are mainly resting after last week's exploits, and/or preparing for bigger races to come.

There are a couple of minor men's races starting on Wednesday in Dunkirk and Azerbaijan, but the best event prior to the Giro is undoubted the inaugural Women's Tour, which gets underway in Oundle, and finishes in Bury St Edmunds on Sunday. Nearly all of the best female riders in the world are present, including British stars Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley and Laura Trott.

Meanwhile, the two men's races that finished on Sunday really could not have gone much better for British cycling fans. Last year's winner of the Tour de France Chris Froome claimed his second win of the season at the Tour de Romandie, while sprint king Mark Cavendish won four of the eight stages at the Tour of Turkey. But perhaps the best result of the week went to 21-year-old Adam Yates who claimed the overall prize in Turkey: his first senior victory in his first full season.

Chris Froome Chris Froome has claimed his second win of the season at the Tour de Romandie
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A TO Z OF LE TOUR

A is for…

A bloc - The French term for riding flat out, not something that can be sustained for long, so timing is everything.

Alps - There is no getting around these at Le Tour and they feature every year, only the order in which you tackle France's two major mountain ranges changes: Alps then Pyrenees, or Pyrenees then Alps. And just when you think you have worked that out, the organisers throw in a detour through the Jura or Vosges for added enjoyment.

Arc en ciel - The French word for rainbow, but in this context the rainbow jersey worn by reigning world champions in one of cycling's disciplines. It is white with five horizontal bands of colour wrapped around the middle. Easy to spot and worn with pride. And remember, you should never buy one of these: they must be earned.

Arrivee - The finish, in Yorkshire's case Harrogate and Sheffield.

L'Auto - The French newspaper that started the whole thing back in 1903. Boosting sales was the idea then, and it certainly worked for a while, with circulation doubling from 25,000 copies within a year, and peaking at 854,000 in 1933.

Autobus - Nothing to do with the above, this is the group of riders who collect at the back of the field during the tough mountain stages and work together to beat the time cut for the day. They are the riders too big, heavy or muscular for the steep stuff, and their daily battles against gravity are often waged 30 minutes behind the leaders and the TV cameras. That does not make them any less impressive.

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FACT OF THE DAY

This year will be the 20th time the Tour de France has started outside France, with the first foreign Grand Depart coming in 1954, when this most quintessentially of French events started in Amsterdam. Since then the race has started in nine different countries, with London hosting Britain's first Grand Depart in 2007.

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