Tony Henderson: Tynesiders prepare as Tour de France comes to Yorkshire

The Tour de France is coming to the North of England - and two Tynesiders are ready for it. They talk to Tony Henderson

Team Sky cyclist Chris Froome (L) rides with children of Leeds-based Sky staff before he tries out Stage 2 of the Tour de France in Yorkshire on May 31, 2014
Team Sky cyclist Chris Froome (L) rides with children of Leeds-based Sky staff before he tries out Stage 2 of the Tour de France in Yorkshire on May 31, 2014

In the picturesque Yorkshire Dales village of Reeth, Friday’s market day is about as busy as it gets.

But on Saturday, it will be a whole lot busier, and then some.

The village, with a population of 840 or thereabouts, will be braced for one of the biggest days in its long history when the Tour de France whistles through, attracting an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 spectators to Reeth and the surrounding area in Swaledale.

The flamboyant opening ceremony for the start of what is called Le Grand Depart takes place tomorrow in Leeds.

On Saturday the first leg of the Tour de France begins, from Leeds to Harrogate, via the Yorkshire Dales, and two Tynesiders will be in the thick of things.

Jacque Robson, from Hebburn in South Tyneside, runs the 18th Century Buck Hotel in Reeth.

The 12-bedroom real ale pub/hotel wilL be packed to the rafters and is also running two outdoor bars to cater for the visitor invasion.

Jacque says: “It will be very hard work for us, but the fact that the Tour de France is coming to Reeth is just brilliant. It’s the biggest thing ever, and I can’t get my head around it. Camping sites are popping up all over.”

Stuart Price, from South Shields, runs the Dales Bike Centre in nearby Fremington with wife Brenda. He came to Swaledale for a weekend and liked it so much he stayed a week, then stayed for good.

Stuart went to Chuter Ede Comprehensive School in South Shields and his parents live in Marsden. After working initially in a youth hostel, he branched out into the biking business.

His Dales Bike Centre offers a cafe, bike shop, bike hire and repair workshop, plus a 14-bed accommodation facility. He has organised a 500-pitch camping site for 2,000 visitors, which is a sell-out, and a four-day cycling-flavour festival called the Fete du Velo.

He says: “This is going to be massive, like the World Cup coming to Swaledale. If somebody had asked me what would be the biggest event you would like to see coming past your door, I would have said the Tour of Britain.

“But to have the Tour De France is amazing. To have the best in world cycling is just mind blowing. We couldn’t have a bigger event coming to our place. It’s the ultimate.

“The bike centre is situated at the base of the climb Cote de Grinton Moor at the 105km point of Stage one. It’s a brilliant location to watch on the roadside as the tour passes right by.”

One of the events in Stuart’s Fete du Velo, which includes cycling films on a big screen, is a performance by local drama group ArtyFacts.

They will be putting on their comedy take on the big event, called Tour de Farce, which has already premiered at the Buck Hotel.

It is based on the reactions of locals to the news that the Tour de France was coming, including overheard comments in locations ranging from the market to the doctor’s surgery.

Cast member Karen Mcleod says: “Le Tour de France is such a massive event, but not everyone sees it the way the popular media does. We have written the play through the eyes of real local folk. It is such a huge event that we felt we couldn’t let it go by without doing something on it.”

The Tour de France 2014 opening ceremony and team presentation at Leeds Arena will see the biggest stars from the world of cycling grace the stage as part of a spectacular live entertainment event.

There are plans for every bell across Yorkshire to ring out as part of the opening ceremony.

Live entertainment at the ceremony includes headline act Embrace, Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh and Opera North.

Rod Ismay, from the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers said: “Yorkshire has some stunning churches. They will be landmarks along the race route and are going to ring their bells to make the loudest most joyful noise to officially welcome the Tour de France to our county.

“In fact, anyone with a bell would be most welcome to ring it and join us for this momentous occasion.”

The opening show’s executive producer, Martin Green, who staged the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games, said: “This is a groundbreaking event for the Tour de France - never before in the history of the race have they seen an opening ceremony like this.”

The show will see Yorkshire welcoming 22 of the world’s best cycling teams.

Yorkshire’s Grand Départ on Saturday will involve riders racing Stage One from Leeds to Harrogate and then Stage Two from York to Sheffield on July 6. A third stage will race from Cambridge to London on July 7.

Several million people are expected to line the route over the three days.

An army of volunteers has been recruited to help visitors who will flock to watch the biggest annual sporting event in the world when in starts in Yorkshire and winds its way through the UK to London and back to France.

The uniformed volunteers have been allocated roles such as route marshal, flag marshal, wayfinders, crossing marshals and supervisors. Cycle Yorkshire has also been launched to build on the legacy of the Grand Départ.

A spokesman said: “We want to deliver a cycling legacy for all generations and all abilities.

“The last 10 years has seen a revolution in British cycling with Olympic and Tour de France successes galvanising enthusiasm and participation in the sport. “Cycling has the potential to help address major social issues through promoting healthy living, increasing green travel, boosting tourism and supporting social inclusion.”

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