Tour de France Grand Depart diary
- 11 June 2014
- From the section England
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.
As the county that gave the world the Cat's Eye, the mousetrap and stainless steel, I suppose I should not be surprised by the ingenuity of people from Yorkshire, but I am. The latest shock to the system has come from Dave Lomax, a baker from Slaithwaite who has created a six-minute stop-motion epic titled, Little Ralph's Big Day Out. Named after one of his bakery's best customers, starring his nephew's Playmobile collection, and set to Kraftwerk's seminal "Tour de France" soundtrack, this is a delicious confection.
Full story: Huddersfield Daily Examiner
An underperforming unit is turned around by a bald, middle-aged leader, only to face some criticism for its tolerance of bad behaviour in the ranks. No, this is not a contrived comparison with Team Sky, this is Thornhill Community Academy in Dewsbury. Or the "Educating Yorkshire" school as it is known to millions of TV viewers. Yorkshire's "most famous school" will wear yellow for a day, eat a Tour-themed menu and stage an exercise-bike challenge to raise money for charity ahead of the Grand Depart.
Full story: Yorkshire Evening Post
After an eventful start to the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday and Monday, we have entered a midweek lull as the main contenders for the key Tour warm-up race have returned to the safety of the fleet, leaving the theatre of war to lesser lights. Germany's Nikias Arndt won a thrilling sprint finish after a boring day on Tuesday, and Russian Yuri Trofimov made a solo break for glory on Wednesday. Chris Froome overcame a slight panic with a late puncture to maintain his 12-second lead over Alberto Contador.
This being Tour de France month, however, Froome did not manage to pass 24 hours without creating a news story. This tale is about his previously unnoticed asthma - unnoticed by the media, that is, he has known about it since childhood. This became public knowledge when he was spotted on camera during Monday's stage taking a quick puff from an inhaler, and this is a story because some asthma medicines are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency because of their performance-enhancing properties. Use of these drugs requires a therapeutic use exemption, or doctor's note. Froome's inhaler, as it happens, does not contain one of these drugs, which means he does not need special permission to use it. Whether that will silence cycling's many cynics is another question.
Meanwhile, Scott Thwaites continues his Dauphine efforts to win a place in Team NetApp-Endura's Tour line-up. Tuesday's flat stage went well, with a solid top-20 finish, but Wednesday's hillier terrain was more of a struggle, as the Yorkshireman finished in 149th place, more than 17 minutes behind Trofimov. With four more days to go, Thwaites could use one good result.
TODAY'S TOUR TRIVIA
I think almost everybody is aware that the Tour de France is starting in Leeds this summer, and most people will recall that it started in London in 2007. I suspect memories of the Tour's visit to the south coast in 1994 might have faded a tad, however, and I am certain that very few people remember the Tour's first visit to these shores.
The year was 1974 and the place was Plymouth, or more specifically, the Plymouth By-Pass. It was a bizarre place for the race to make its British debut, and it did not exactly thrill the locals, with crowds in the tens of thousands, as opposed to the expected millions this time.
The riders were not that impressed, either, as they were held up in passport control on the way back to France. The fact it took 20 years to come back says it all. The Netherlands' Henk Poppe won the stage, by the way, and Eddy Merckx won the race. But Yorkshire's Barry Hoban claimed the 13th stage, planting a seed, perhaps, that will flower 40 years later.
THE COUNTDOWN - 24 DAYS TO GO
24, or 24.1km per hour to be precise, is the Tour's slowest average speed and it was recorded in 1919, the first Tour after WWI, which had wrecked much of France's road network, making cycling difficult and painful.