Tour de France Grand Depart diary

The Yorkshire Dales
Image caption A Dales vantage point will need planning, says the Dalesman

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.


Two wheels good, four wheels bad: We have known the broad brushstrokes of the road-closure plan in Leeds for some time, now we can see the fine detail. While it might not make for a pretty picture for some, for most it remains a magnificent spectacle that will be remembered and talked about for years to come. And even for those who do not appreciate the Tour's aesthetic charms, this is not a permanent piece, although its effect should linger.

Full story: Yorkshire Post

For the greater good: On the short-term pain/long-term gain front, the Post's sister tabloid, the YEP, says the "inconvenience caused by the road closures will be worth it". An editorial in the paper points out that with proper planning, common sense and a sense of perspective any disruption to people's lives should be outweighed by the overall benefits to the region. Hear, hear.

Full story: Yorkshire Evening Post

Foxed in: That is not to say, however, that some people will not be paying a bigger price in terms of inconvenience than others, and they deserve a fair hearing. John Flowers, a railway signalman from Sheffield, is one such person. With his home in the Fox Hill part of the city "cut off" by the Tour for most of Sunday, 6 July, he has launched a website to raise awareness of the area's predicament. "Deep down, everyone in Fox Hill is quite proud of how Sheffield will be in the spotlight, but they just feel that being cut off for so long is over the top," says Flowers.

Full story: The Star

Public service announcement: But let us end today's press pickings with some typically good sense from the people behind the Dalesman's visitor guides. Here you will find lots of sound advice on where to watch the race, when to get there and how to do it. Fail to prepare; prepare to fail.

Full story: Dalesman


A quieter day news-wise as pundits get their heads around the idea that the 2012 Tour de France champion Sir Bradley Wiggins really might not be on the start line in Leeds, or perhaps ride a Grand Tour for Team Sky again. As discussed on Tuesday, this is all still to be decided and we all really are just speculating at the moment, but even Chris Froome admitted to me on Saturday that "it's a hot topic".

Away from Team Sky's three pipe selection problem, Mark Cavendish's Omega Pharma-Quick Step team seem a much more settled bunch. The Manx sprinter joined his colleagues on Monday for a look at the cobbled sections of stage five on the Belgian/French border.

The bumps have been added to the route this year as the Tour's way of marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, with stage five beginning in the Belgian town made famous (and flattened) by the conflict, Ypres. For a man who had been shaken about for a bit, Cavendish sounded very chipper: "We're the strongest cobbled classics team in the world and we can win every one."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Stage five is to begin in the Belgian town of Ypres

One man who definitely will not be in Yorkshire this summer is the Giro d'Italia champion Nairo Quintana. The organisers of the Tour had been quietly optimistic that the Colombian might be tempted to go for the Giro/Tour double this year, adding another big name to their field. But he has now admitted he is cream-crackered and needs a rest, with his next target being the Vuelta a Espana. He will be back at the Tour next year, though, determined to go one better than last year's second place.


"Want to get paid to ride to work? Move to France where 25c/km payment is being trialled."

@roadcc reports on a scheme being trialled by the French government to encourage people to commute by bike. This could be quite lucrative if, for example, your work commute is, ahem, Macclesfield to Leeds. The days would be quite long, though.


U is for…

UCI - Cycling's Fifa, and for many years almost as newsworthy as football's governing body. The Union Cycliste Internationale, or International Cycling Union, is based, like most of its sporting counterparts, in Switzerland, but is led by Lancastrian Brian Cookson, the former head of British Cycling.

Much maligned in recent decades due to its inability - some say wilful refusal - to tackle the sport's doping problems, its reputation is on the up again thanks to a sense that the worst of those problems are in the past, cycling's rising popularity and a new focus on issues such as women's cycling. The UCI's main function at the Tour is to supply the commissaires, or referees. And to use that football comparison again, there is nearly always a refereeing controversy at the Tour.


To pick up on that point, one of the most memorable recent controversies involved our very own Mark Cavendish. The year was 2009 and the green jersey competition had come down to a straight, and very tight, battle between the rising British star and his more experienced Norwegian rival Thor Hushovd. The contest had ebbed and flowed between them for a fortnight when Cavendish beat Hushovd in a sprint at the end of stage 14 in Besancon. This was not for the victory - although Cavendish had already claimed four of those - it was for 13th place, as a breakaway group had already claimed the top 12 places. But Hushovd claimed Cavendish had veered across him, forcing him to brake or hit the barriers. The commissaires agreed, and relegated the Manx Missile to last place, giving Hushovd the 13 points on offer.

Cavendish was furious, but Hushovd did not back down and would go on a few days later to launch a solo attack on a day in the mountains to claim all maximum points in the intermediate sprints. Cavendish would hit back with two more sprint wins, to beat Hushovd 6-1 on that count, but the Norwegian would win the green jersey for his greater consistency but by only 10 points.

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