Tour de France Grand Depart diary

Crowd at Great Yorkshire Show Image copyright Great Yorkshire Show
Image caption Harrogate will have to cope with crowds heading for the Great Yorkshire Show just two days after the Tour visits town

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.


The organisers of the Grand Depart have certainly done a first-rate job of telling the people of Yorkshire that a big bike race is coming their way - 94% of people in the region have Le Tour on their radar - but what of t'other lot over the hills? At around 13:00 on Sunday, 6 July, the Tour will dip into historic Lancashire for the first time in its 111-year history. But it will leave Lancashire at about 13:01, as the riders speed away from Rochdale's Blackstone Edge reservoir and swing east towards Ripponden. These roads are well-known to members of the Trans Pennine Cycling Club, who sound like an ecumenical bunch, and they can often be spotted tackling the long and winding road that is the "Alp d'Cragg".

Full story: Manchester Evening News

Can you really have too much of a good thing? Well, the people of Harrogate and farmers from across the region might think so given the close proximity in the calendar of Le Tour and the Great Yorkshire Show, which starts on Tuesday, two days after the bike race has passed through the spa town for the second time. Publicly, the organisers of the huge agricultural shindig have been at pains to paint this as a win-win for the area and their event, but there is no doubt that Le Tour's road closures and general traffic present serious logistical concerns for them. Take the issue of car parking, for example. The Great Yorkshire Showground is meant to take up to 15,000 cars for the day stage one finishes in Harrogate, but the venue's owners have said that could be cut to just 2,000 if there is any risk of cars and bad weather cutting up those fields for the Great Yorkshire Show.

Full story: The Yorkshire Post


Thursday's stage at the Criterium du Dauphine did not look that exciting on paper - an up-and-down but not mountainous day - particularly with two huge days looming on Saturday and Sunday. But it actually ended up being quite good. Alberto Contador attacked on a descent - shades of the 2013 Tour de France, there - and for a moment had a lead of nearly a minute over Chris Froome with 15 miles or so to go on the stage. But the overnight leader did not panic, and his Team Sky buddies closed the gap, with new Spanish signing Mikel Nieve to the fore. Slovenia's Simon Spilak broke clear on the last climb to bag a solo win, his team Katusha's second in a row, and Froome maintained his 12-second overall lead. Kudos to Wilco Kelderman though, who jumped clear of the leaders to claim second place and enough time to draw level with Contador behind Froome, and to Bury's Adam Yates, who finished third to continue his fine season.

Elsewhere, Mark Cavendish confirmed he will be taking almost his first-choice Omega Pharma - Quick-Step sprint chain with him to the nine-day Tour of Switzerland on Saturday. He should get two chances to use it in an otherwise bumpy race.

And an update on Carlos Betancur's whereabouts: on Thursday I mentioned that he had failed to return from Colombia in time to get his visa for the Tour de France, but it now seems he has a virus and will be staying at home for the rest of the 2014 campaign.


"Explaining to @TheDPate why Bale and Ramsey can't play for England…#worldcup #hardwork"

Welsh star @GeraintThomas86 on the difficulties his American Team Sky colleague Danny Pate is having with the United Kingdom's constitutional arrangements.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx in action during the 1970 Tour de France


It would not be that difficult to do a daily item of Eddy Merckx trivia, such was the Belgian's hold over cycling from the mid-1960s to his retirement in 1978, but this is the first time I have mentioned him in this section, which is almost scandalous. One of only five men to win the Tour five times, he also won the Giro five times, three World Road Race titles, each of the sport's other five big one-day races, at least twice, and the Vuelta once. But my favourite "Cannibal" stat is that he is the only man to win the overall, points and mountains competitions in the same Tour. That happened in 1969, when he also won the combined classification and the combativity award that goes to the most aggressive rider. It was his Tour debut.


There are 22 teams of nine in this year's race to make a total of 198 riders, the same number as the last four Tours. It was originally intended the riders would compete as individuals, but teams of sponsored riders started to dominate, until the organisers banned them in 1930 and opted for national teams. This continued until 1961 when "trade teams" came back, only for national teams to contest the 1967 and 1968 Tours. But since 1969 it has been the human billboards of the trade teams.

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