Tour de France: Sheffield is ready to party

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  • by Richard Fidler

The bar has been set high but Sheffield can do the unthinkable - to those north of the M62 anyway - and be THE abiding memory of this year’s Tour de France, writes Richard Fidler.

Yorkshire is hosting a party after a brilliantly successful first stage of this year’s race from Leeds to Harrogate.

Blessed by Royalty, the Prime Minister and dignitaries from both sides of the English Channel the opening day of the Grand Depart was always going to be a glorious occasion - especially when the sun began to shine.

And now it’s Sheffield’s turn.

Be prepared to think big and double it. It won’t just be your neighbours coming out to watch. There will be people from all across the city, the county and country stood alongside you.

Yes there is a bike race going on but when it’s all boiled down the Tour de France is just one massive street party.

In Harrogate on Saturday the entire town centre was packed.

Bars and restaurants couldn’t fill up glasses quick enough. The queue for Bettys Tea Rooms ran around the block and back again.

Walking from the cosy confines of the media centre - itself filled with several hundred journalist in a room the size of four tennis courts - to the finish line took half an hour. The distance was probably about 400 yards as the crow flies.

In the way there was the equivalent of Pond Street Interchange just plonked on the main road. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of luxury coaches waiting for the superstar riders so they could be whisked to their hotels in York ready for the start of stage two.

There was a VIP area the size of a mini Great Yorkshire Show and a Fan Park, well, the size of a park.

And thousands and thousands of people. Young and old, families or on their own. Enjoying the occasion, enjoying each other’s company. And just soaking it all up.

It’s easy to wax lyrical about what a great day it was and say that you should really get out on the streets tomorrow if you get the chance but it really is something where you can tell your kids and grandkids ‘I was there’.

Remember the Olympic Games torch relay? It makes that seem like a village fun run.

Sheffield will come into its own on a day like Sunday. There’s our beautiful countryside from Langsett, through Bradfield and winding down through Oughtibridge (please commentators call it with an Oot and not an Out) and Grenoside before turning onto Halifax Road.

From there we’re into the heart of the city territory. Hundreds of thousands of people live within walking distance of the route.

The riders were blown away by the welcome they received in Leeds and Harrogate but surely the good people of Sheffield, particularly after a few early afternoon liveners, will make it an even better occasion.

Race director Christian Prudhomme is expecting the same crowds but a different type of race. Let’s prove him wrong and leave him with a memory of South Yorkshire that proves we’re No 1 in God’s own county.




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