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Day us dee-dahs did city proud!

The peleton on stage 2 of the Tour de France, climb the steepest part of Jenkin Road in Sheffield . Picture by Tony Johnson

The peleton on stage 2 of the Tour de France, climb the steepest part of Jenkin Road in Sheffield . Picture by Tony Johnson

After the Dales dazzled the world on Saturday how would the Dee-Dahs do?

West and North Yorkshire stole the global headlines with their blue skies, chocolate box villages and Hovis cobbles.

How could Sheffield and South Yorkshire’s industrial grit compete with that?

Easy. People power.

More than a million Sheffielders and visitors packed the streets of the city as the big day finally arrived.

There were 60,000 at Home Moss, 30,000 at Bradfield, the packed fan park at Oughtibridge had to be closed at noon because it was full, a dry stone wall collapsed under the weight of fans at Jawbone on Cote D’Oughtibridge. (no injuries)

On Jenkin Road an estimated 60,000 more lined the the steepest section of the whole tour – gradient 33 per cent.

And it felt like all 60,000 of them were trying to catch the tram from Meadowhall as the system temporarily buckled under the sheer weight of passenger numbers and extra trams in use.

But let’s not moan, not today.

Sheffield looked fantastic in the sunshine, families together cheering in the streets, picnics on every available road-side space with some good-humoured World Cup-standard beer guzzling to add to the atmosphere.

People were taking their vantage points late Saturday night in some areas and the trams - twice as many as usual – ran full from 9am to 9pm on one of their busiest days ever,

At the top of Jenkin Road around 6,000 gathered on Wincobank Common to watch, Sheffielders stood side by side with people from all over the world. There were even a few from Leeds.

Fans looked on from bedroom windows, on garden walls, up trees, swinging from lamposts and best of all the couple who had their deck chairs out on the roof of their conservatory – King and Queen of the hill, no danger.

On top of the common the big screen drew big numbers as did the rides, food stands and beer tent in the corner.

But it was at the roadside where Sheffield was at its best.

There were full buffets on blankets, camping tables at the kerb and canvas chairs fixed in their spots from early morning.

One man in his later years was getting in a strop wondering when his promised cup of tea would arrive: “I’ve been here since nine’o’clock keeping this space, she said she was on the way with some tea, that was three hours ago!”

But he got to see the Tour De France circus in all its pomp and glory as millions of pounds worth of spare bikes passed by on high on the roofs of four by fours, big-name sponsors like Skoda, Haribo and Carrefour sent their perambulating billboards ahead of the racers and Alan Partridge-like ‘punch the air’ exortations to the crowd were happily drowned out by spontaneous cheers.

Then finally, after almost 18 months of waiting and wondering the cyclists came weaving up that killer hill, the leaders mercilessly forcing the pace, looking as though they could cycle all the way to Paris in one go.

Others, some minutes behind, surprisingly looked more like they were on the way to school – and didn’t really want to get there.

Gill Akers of Ecclesall was there with son Ben and grandson Sebastian, aged three.

“We’ve been having a great time, we got here early and the crowds are about what we thought they would be.

“I’m glad there was such a good turn-out. After yesterday when it looked so brilliant on television I was hoping that Sheffield would put a good show on and it has.”

Dexter Duboulay travelled up from Kenilworth in Warwickshire to see the tour go through the hills of Sheffield and he was impressed.

“We’ve had a great day, it was impressive to see the Tour up close and we had a pretty decent view. Lots of people here and a good atmosphere but not so many that you couldn’t get close to the roadside if you wanted to.”

On a day when our national sporting cup ran over with world class events like the men’s singles final at Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, it was a visiting event from overseas that stole the show.

And it was Sheffield that brilliantly hosted that show.

Following Saturday’s Grand Depart Stage One from Leeds to Harrogate it was always going to be a tough gig.

But the people of South Yorkshire rose magnificently to the occasion.

The Tour came to Sheffield and we did it proud.

 

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