Tour de France fever cranks up in Yorkshire

York Minster Image copyright York Minster
Image caption York Minster has installed a giant yellow jersey on top of its central tower

Final preparations for the 2014 Tour de France are under way as Yorkshire gears up for the start of the race.

Up to two million fans are expected on the streets this weekend, with royalty, politicians and celebrities throwing their support behind le Grand Depart.

British cycling coach Dave Brailsford said the UK had become a "cycling nation" ahead of the race, which begins in Leeds on Saturday.

The 21-stage race finishes in Paris on 27 July.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Artist Frances Anderson painted a giant sunflower on a farmer's shed roof near Muker, Yorkshire

Arriving in Yorkshire ahead of the event, Prime Minister David Cameron, said: "It's tremendously exciting that we're hosting the start of the Tour de France here in Yorkshire.

"It's a brilliant advertisement for Britain and for Yorkshire."

Mr Cameron added: "3.5 billion people worldwide will be watching this and I believe that, once again, Britain will show that we're brilliant at hosting sporting events and we've got great sportsmen and women to take part in them."

The first stage of the Tour de France begins in the centre of Leeds on Saturday.

The 198 riders from 22 teams will coast to nearby Harewood House where the race proper - through the Yorkshire Dales to Harrogate - will be started by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

The second stage of the race will run from York to Sheffield on Sunday.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Bunting featuring knitted jerseys has appeared across the Yorkshire Dales
Image copyright PA
Image caption Gordon Peacock, from Muker, Yorkshire, gets ready at his front door for le Tour to pass by

A third stage, from Cambridge to London, will take place on Monday.

The first stage of the race is expected to be run in a mix of sunshine and showers, though forecasters are predicting heavy rain and even lightning on Sunday.

In Harrogate, a local sweet shop has created a 24lb lemon coconut ice aimed at spurring on adopted local hero Mark Cavendish, whose mother lives in the town.

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Media captionNearly 200 riders from 22 teams are competing, including 2013's yellow jersey winner Chris Froome
Image copyright PA
Image caption Alpaccas painted in Tour de France jersey colours walk on the route near Reeth, Yorkshire

Not to be outdone, a butcher's in Ripon has produced a bike made entirely of pork products, which features "pork pies for wheels, belly pork for brakes and a chipolata bike chain".

Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of TdFHUB2014 Ltd, the government-created company overseeing the plans for the race, said the logistical preparations for the tour were now all in place.

Sir Rodney said: "All of the final pre-event plans are now being put into action, so I'm delighted to be able to say we are ready to deliver a historic spectacle for huge audiences at the roadside and those watching around the world to enjoy."

Image caption Steps outside Leeds Town Hall have had a Tour de France makeover
Image copyright Carrie Walmsley
Image caption Yellow ducks have been painted along the route of the race in Addingham

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