Tour de France Grand Depart diary

Marcel Kittel wins the 3rd state of the Giro d'Italia Huge crowds watched the first three stages of the Giro over the weekend

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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.

TOP STORIES

Warm-up act Despite refuting my suggestion that the Giro d'Italia was a mere warm-up act for the Tour de France during a debate on the Good Morning Ulster radio programme on Saturday, BBC Northern Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson is now suggesting the province could make a bid to host the world's biggest bike race in 2017. Huge crowds in Northern Ireland and Ireland watched the first three stages of the Giro over the weekend, with early reports suggesting the "Big Start" was a resounding success, despite a little too much of the weather that keeps the Emerald Isle green.

Full story: BBC News

Essex boy Contrary to some reports, the 2014 Tour de France does not finish in Sheffield. Not only does it continue for three weeks in France, it travels from Cambridge to London on 7 July, passing through the People's Republic of Essex. News of this occurrence has finally reached Essex County Council, which has launched a website with all the information about the race's visit to the land of Lakeside, Joey Essex and yours truly.

Full story: Heart

Cycle Yorkshire Yorkshire's plans to create a positive legacy for cycling across the region after the Tour de France are starting to be rolled out. The Leeds Schools Cycle Challenge on 1 July will see schoolchildren of all abilities and ages compete at Temple Newsam Park. The city council is also providing bikes, rides and races, as well as bike maintenance and safety courses, at other sites across Leeds this summer. These schemes are part of the wider Cycle Yorkshire campaign which is aiming to give everybody in God's Own County access to a bike by 2023.

Full story: Yorkshire Evening Post

Charity partner Leading charity Marie Curie is looking for volunteers to help with its Tour de France plans. The charity, which provides free home care to people with terminal illnesses, is an official partner of the Grand Depart.

Full story: The Press

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CYCLING ROUND-UP

This weekend's action was dominated by two riders: Dutch superstar Marianne Vos and German sprint sensation Marcel Kittel. The former won the last three stages of the inaugural Women's Tour of Britain to confirm her continued status as the best female rider on the planet, while the latter won the second and third stages at the Giro. Kittel's second victory in Dublin on Sunday was particularly impressive as he came from a long way back to deprive Rotherham's Ben Swift of a first Grand Tour win by a matter of inches.

Stage five of the Women's Tour Dutch Superstar Marianne Vos crosses the line

But that is all you need in this game, as Kittel's big rival Mark Cavendish proved late on Sunday in the first stage of the Tour of California.

Kittel's teammate and compatriot John Degenkolb was the beaten party this time, making it 1-1 between GB and Germany in the sprint stakes this week. The sight of both Cavendish and Kittel in this kind of form bodes very, very well for some spectacular racing in Yorkshire come July.

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TWEET OF THE DAY

"Yorkshire too busy hosting ancient British culture like the Tour de France to worry about modern fads like the Ashes."

The Mirror's Mike Walters on news that Headingley is not getting an Ashes Test in 2015.

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A TO Z OF LE TOUR

E is for…

Echelon - One for purists (and Belgians) this, an echelon is the formation that riders take up when there are crosswinds. Instead of the more usual straight lines, the riders form diagonal lines across the road to give themselves some shelter from the side, whilst still riding in the slipstream of the rider in front. An occupational hazard when riding in the Low Countries, crosswinds can liven up even the flattest of Tour stages. Fail to get on the back of an echelon, and you can soon lose chunks of time in a lonely battle against the breeze.

Equipe - French for "team" - and road cycling is very much a team sport - it is also the name for the Tour's paper of record, L'Equipe. The French daily is a direct descendant of L'Auto, the paper that launched the race in order to boost sales, and is still owned by the same family company that runs the race.

Etape - The French word for "stage", or the daily races-within-the-race that add up to make the overall contest. There are 21 stages at Le Tour, with two rest days. The winner of the race's general classification, and yellow jersey, is the person who gets to Paris with the quickest total time. L'Etape du Tour, or just the Etape to most Anglophones, is an event staged by the Tour's organisers that allows amateurs to try one of the route's most difficult mountain stages, usually on one of the Tour's rest days.

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FACT OF THE DAY

This year's L'Etape du Tour will be held over the route of the 18th stage of the race between Pau and Hautacam in the Pyrenees. On Sunday 20 July, amateurs will attempt to get over the 17.1km climb of the Col du Tourmalet, before attempting to get up to the summit finish at Hautacam, a 13.6km climb with an average gradient of 7.8%. Good luck everybody, you will have earned every beer and doughnut you consume whilst watching the pros do it four days later.

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