Tour de France Grand Depart diary

Tour de France cyclists Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A recent poll suggests not everyone believes the Tour's disruption to the road network is worth the hassle

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.


News of the Windsor clan's northern excursion continues to spread throughout the worldwide web, which must present something of a quandary for cycling fans and Yorkshire folk who happen to be ardent republicans. They would not normally give two hoots about the leisure plans of Harry, Kate and Wills, but even they must admit the fact those plans include a trip to see the big bike race will guarantee even more media attention on the event and region, which is kind of the whole point. The anti-monarchist lobby will surely be more comfortable with this item from cycling's court circular: five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault will be the official starter for the Otley Cycles Races on 2 July. One of England's most prestigious town-centre race evenings, the event will also have the world's biggest ice cream van.

Full story: The Ilkley Gazette

Big names and big ice creams are all part of what makes Le Tour so attractive to towns, cities and regions eager to boost their international profile. The Grand Depart organisers' most recent polling suggested there was still a significant minority in Yorkshire who remain unconvinced the temporary disruption over the race weekend will be worth the hassle. Ultimately, this is a very personal judgement, and the disruption/benefit equation is not the same for everybody. But how many other Yorkshire events are being broadcast live in dozens of countries around the globe? Australia's public service broadcaster SBS will be showing every minute again this year: a golden opportunity for Yorkshire's natural beauty to shine.

Full story: SBS

Before you can have a Grand Departy, you have got to have a Big Clean. Well, that is what Calderdale Council is calling for in the weeks ahead of the region's moment in the spotlight. A voluntary army clad in yellow bibs, gardening gloves and sturdy boots will be rooting through the undergrowth in Brighouse, Elland, Halifax and so on, clearing away any unsightly rubbish.

Full story: The Huddersfield Daily Examiner


The big story on Wednesday was the big bump on Mark Cavendish's head after a high-speed crash in the finale of the Tour of Switzerland's fifth stage. He revealed later that he had just backed off the pace a tad because he was worried there might be a crash - he was right to worry, as moments later Danny Van Poppel took out Matt Goss and he took out Cavendish. It looked spectacular and very painful. But the Manx Missile has proved many times before that he is an amateur stuntman, either that or he really is part cannonball, and he tweeted later that he was sore but wanted to carry on in the race.

This crash left only a few riders to contest the sprint to the line, with the chief beneficiaries being Sacha Modolo and Peter Sagan. Italy's Modolo won the dash to the line pretty easily in the end, with Sagan second and John Degenkolb third. Cavendish will be pleased he is not more badly hurt, but he will be annoyed at missing out on a chance to claim another victory.

Elsewhere, Alex Dowsett, who Cavendish often trains with in Essex, has been named in Movistar's 13-man long list for Le Tour. The English time-trial specialist won a stage at the Giro d'Italia last year, but has made no secret of the fact that Tour selection is his prime goal this year.


"Ice spray is like a wonder spray. It helps so much for the football players after they get hit. #WorldCup2014 #BigShow"

Cycling hard man Fabian Cancellara does not sound convinced that some of the injuries on show in Brazil are as serious as they look at first.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara, nicknamed Spartacus, is not impressed by the gladiatorial qualities of World Cup footballers


Cancellara, whose nickname is Spartacus, is renowned for his time-trialling ability and phenomenal record in the sport's biggest one-day races. But the Swiss star also has the distinction of being the active rider who has worn the most yellow jerseys, 28. Sadly, that also makes him the rider with the most yellow jerseys who has never actually won the Tour. He has won eight stages, though, as well as seven "Monuments" (one of the five most prestigious one-day races), four world titles and an Olympic time trial title. Not bad, then.


Sweet 16 is the number of Tour starts Dutch legend Joop Zoetemelk made between 1970 and 1986, and it is also the number he finished. He only missed the 1974 Tour during that run, and that was only because he almost died when he crashed into a car at the finish of a race in France. Zoetemelk returned from that injury - a cracked skull - to eventually win the Tour in 1980, but he is perhaps best remembered for his six second-place finishes and pale skin. The old joke was that this was because he was in Eddy Merckx's shadow.

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