Tour de France Grand Depart diary

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A sign welcoming the Tour to YorkshireImage source, PA
Image caption,
Farmers are being urged to be ready for Le Tour by local newspapers

With the 101st Tour de France starting in Leeds on 5 July, BBC Yorkshire's 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.


Top trending If there is one thing that can be practically assured ahead of Le Tour's arrival it is that the 3G network will not be able to cope with the tsunami of selfies, tweets and vines that will be unleashed on 5-7 July. So York has decided to bring forward its plans to provide free wi-fi across the city. Chapeau, as they say in cycling circles.

Full story: BBC News

Agri aggro My experience of farmers (limited, admittedly) is that they are too busy to be reading online summaries of cycling-related news, but perhaps they will take heed of the Darlington & Stockton Times. "Farmers urged: Be ready for Le Tour" is the stark headline on Wednesday, as the Country Land and Business Association and Natural England unite to warn Yorkshire's farmers to get on with plans for camp sites, grass-cutting, parking, toilets and so on.

Chug of the day Another day, another ale. This time it is Halifax-based Oates Brewery and their Penny Farthing beer, which will be on sale throughout Calderdale. The brewery will contribute 15p to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance service every time somebody buys a pint of their "light, easy-drinking summer beer with a bright yellow label".

Full story: Halifax Courier


Tuesday was a busy day on planet cycling.

First, the Giro d'Italia restarted after its Irish adventure, only to bring some Irish weather back home. And while roads in Belfast and Dublin are able to handle a bit of water without turning into a skid pan, strade in southern Italy cannot.

After seven slippery circuits of the eight-lap route around Giovinazzo, organisers neutralised the race (gave everybody the same time), meaning only the sprinters who wanted a stage win needed to try on the last lap. Pandemonium ensued with just three riders making it to the line upright. France's Nacer Bouhanni won, claiming France's first victory at the Giro for three years. Britain's Ben Swift came down hard, and was not happy about it afterwards, while the winner of the two previous sprints, Germany's Marcel Kittel, did not even start the stage, because of a fever. There is no way he would jeopardise missing Le Tour.

Image source, AFP/Getty
Image caption,
The Giro has returned to Italy after its Irish adventure

Meanwhile, Sir Bradley Wiggins' (don't call it a) comeback continues at the Tour of California. The third stage included two big climbs, with the finish coming on top of Mount Diablo. The 2012 Tour de France winner looked strong whilst leading a select group of riders up the final climb, but did not have the legs to stop Australian Rohan Dennis jumping clear to claim the win and slice 20 seconds off his lead. So the Team Sky star leads now by 24 seconds, with five stages to go. Friday's climb to Mountain High will decide the race.


"Guess you learned your lesson. So did I when my grandma found me playing with fireworks next to our barn full with dry hay."

Kittel responds to the Irish fan who took a selfie with Kittel lying flat on the road after his win in the Giro's third stage. David McCarthy was initially heavily criticised on twitter, but Kittel's gracious acceptance of his apology turned the tide of typically overblown opprobrium.


G is for…

General Classification - GC for short, this is the overall competition at Le Tour: the quickest total time to the finish in Paris. The leader in the GC wears arguably the most famous shirt in sport, the maillot jaune, or yellow jersey; and the winner gets to keep it. Most teams, but not all, have a leader who is completely focused on the GC. Typically, this rider will be an all-rounder, who can climb mountains and time-trial (ride shorter distances against the clock). The rest of the team will ride to support him, by shielding him from the wind, fetching food and water, perhaps even giving him their bikes if he has mechanical problems.

Grimpeur - The French word for climber, these guys tend to be small but strong, as the power-to-weight ratio is cycling's key equation when the road tilts up. The GC is usually a battle between climbers who can time-trial, and time-triallers who can climb, but there is a race within the race just for grimpeurs: the King of the Mountains. Points are awarded at the top of designated climbs, with the climbs divided into categories based on gradient, height and length. The harder the climb, the more points are on offer. The King of the Mountains wears a white jersey with red polka dots, the maillot a pois rouges, although the current (and unfortunate) fad is to put polka dots on everything.

Gruppetto - The Italian version of a word we have already met, l'autobus: the back of the field on the big climbs, where all the non-grimpeurs gather and suffer together. This can be a very unhappy place on the last climb of a day in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Today's Tour Trivia

Maurice-Francois Garin, aka "The Little Chimney-Sweep", was the first man to win a Tour de France, but also the first Tour de France winner to be stripped of his title.

Born on the Italian side of the border near Mont Blanc in 1871, the nomadic Garin eventually settled in France and took up cycling in the 1890s. The fashion then was for long one-day races, or challenges to see how far somebody could ride in 24 hours. Garin was a natural: small, tough, and blessed with incredible reserves of stamina. By the time the first Tour took place in 1903, Garin had already won almost every major race in France, as well as claiming a world record for riding 500km in just over 15 hours.

The first Tour saw 60 riders tackle 2,428km in six days of racing. Only 21 finished, and Garin earned the equivalent of about £20,000 for his trouble. The second Tour was just as hard, but even more chaotic, with the riders sometimes being attacked by the fans of rivals. After a hairy moment in St Etienne, Garin said "I'll win the Tour de France provided I'm not murdered before we get to Paris."

He did get to Paris first, relatively unscathed, but was soon disqualified, along with the next three finishers. There had been rumours of rampant cheating throughout the race - hanging on to cars, catching trains, feeding outside permitted zones - but the actual reason for Garin's disqualification was lost when the French cycling authorities moved their archives to escape the German invasion in 1940.

Was Garin a scapegoat? We will never know. We do know he was banned for two years, and retired soon after, living out the rest of his days quietly as garage-owner in Lens.