Tour de France Grand Depart diary

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Image caption There is a Tour-themed twist on a Yorkshire favourite Ilkley Moor Baht'At

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.


Froome with a view: Chris Froome came to see Yorkshire this weekend…and Yorkshire came out to see him. The defending champion, and this year's pre-race favourite, rode from Hawes to Harrogate on Friday, and Harrogate to Sheffield on Saturday in what was supposed to be a quiet reconnaissance mission with a few teammates. It did not turn out that way as thousands of cycling fans got wind of what was happening and came out to ride with them, cheer them on and take lots of selfies.

Full story: Huddersfield Daily Examiner , The Star and BBC News

Image copyright PA
Image caption A quiet reconnaissance mission begins

Biked on classics: It is all happening in Harrogate at the moment as news has arrived of Harrogate Symphony Orchestra's summer proms concert at the Royal Hall this Saturday. Leeds composer Nick Salmon has come up with a Tour-themed twist on a Yorkshire favourite, On Ilkley Moor Baht'At. Also on the bill will be Wagner's cycling classic the Ride of the Valkyries, and American minimalist John Adams' Short Ride on a Fast Vehicle.

Full story: Harrogate Advertiser

Cycling studies: Can you imagine what it must be like to know that what you write will be studied by scholars for years to come? Well, let me tell you, it is pretty daunting. I often feel the weight of history upon me, particularly since it was confirmed that five Yorkshire universities - Huddersfield, Leeds Met, Leeds Trinity, Sheffield and York - have teamed up to waive up £200,000 worth of research fees for anybody who wants to study Le Tour's impact on the region. So this is not just a self-indulgent sprint through the papers, it is source material.

Full story: Yorkshire Evening Post

Tour de Dortmund: Speaking of the scholars at Leeds Trinity - the university, not the shopping centre - they are hosting a chat with The Lord Mayor's Cycle Ride Team on Thursday evening. The team, which included two Trinity lecturers, rode 500 miles from Dortmund in Germany to its twin city Leeds to raise money for a Leeds-based youth charity.

Full story: Leeds Trinity University


Monday is always a good day to pause, reflect and give proper credit to those who enjoyed good weekends. In Nairo Quintana's case it is more a case of four good weekends in a row, as he was confirmed as Colombia's first Giro d'Italia champion on Sunday, making the 24-year-old the youngest winner of the race for a decade. Quintana's performance was particularly impressive as he started the race under the weather, but utterly dominated proceedings once the race reached the mountains.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Nairo Quintana's thumping win at the Giro has got Matt thinking

Having finished second at last year's Tour behind Froome, the tiny climber now has a decision to make: does he risk riding the Tour again on just five weeks' rest, or does he make the French race his main goal next season? The latter is more likely, which means he will probably try to double up this season with victory at the Vuelta.

Welshman Geraint Thomas is another rider sometimes discussed a future Tour winner and he also enjoyed victory on Sunday, this time at the Tour of Bavaria. This is the Team Sky star's second victory in the five-day race.

But Thomas will not be riding for personal glory at Le Tour for a year or two yet: his job this summer will be to support Froome again. Essex boy Alex Dowsett is another who is very likely to be on the start line in Leeds in the service of others. But Dowsett, a teammate of Quintana's at Spanish-based team Movistar, will be hoping for success in stage 20's time trial. He is definitely in good form, having taken 25 seconds off the British 10-mile record on Saturday.


S is for…

Soigneur - From the French for "one who provides care", the "swanny" is a member of a cycling team who basically makes a rider's life as tolerable as possible at a gruelling three-week race. They carry bags, hand out food and drink, massage weary muscles and vulnerable egos, wash clothes, keep journos at bay and generally run around making themselves useful.

Sticky bottle - Another of cycling's great euphemisms, this is cheating, albeit very low-grade cheating, comparable to a footballer stealing a few yards at a throw-in. The sticky bottle in question is one that a rider will hang on to for a while when he/she goes to the team car during a race to get more liquids. A blind eye is usually turned to these slow handovers if they last a couple of seconds, but any longer than that results in fines, and perhaps even to disqualification.


Quintana's thumping win at the Giro and superb display at last year's Tour has got a few people - well, me - thinking about the devilishly difficult Giro/Tour double. With so many variables involved in winning a Grand Tour, not to mention cycling's slightly unhelpful calendar, very few cyclists even try to ride these two races, let alone set out to win them. Only seven riders have won both the Giro and the Tour in the same season, although Fausto Coppi, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain did it twice, and Eddy Merckx did it three times. But those four are exceptions to almost every rule in cycling.

Marco Pantani was the last man to do it in 1998, but that seems like a long time ago now, in almost every sense. The Italian would be thrown out of the Giro a year later for providing a blood sample that failed the "health check" system at the time, and he would be dogged by suspicions of doping until his death in 2004. Much has changed since then but the size of the challenge a Giro/Tour tilt presents has not.

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