With less than two months to go, Tour de France fever is beginning to take hold as Yorkshire anticipates the arrival of the world’s largest annual sporting event.
As a Stage 2 finish host of the Yorkshire Grand Depart and with four major hill climbs to challenge the peloton, Sheffield on Sunday, July 6 is certainly one of the prime locations to catch the action of the Tour. With this in mind there are some great spectator experiences on offer, catering for both Tour enthusiasts and those just wanting to soak up a little of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Shortly after the peloton crosses the city boundary, idyllic High Bradfield will be the first of the spectator sites located along the Sheffield stage of the route. Dubbed the Steel Stage by organisers, this site will incorporate a varied programme of activity across the whole of the weekend, with highlights including cycling challenges led by Langsett Cycles and a Beer Festival organised by Bradfield Brewery.
Located in the centre of Oughtibridge village, just before the ascent of Cote d’Oughtibridge (or Jawbone Hill) some of the best racing views will be found at Coronation Park. This community-friendly site ticks a lot of boxes for racing fans with a large screen, disabled viewing, concessions, toilets and children’s play area to keep the little ones entertained.
In addition to the hub there are also several convenient campsites, all located directly along the route in close proximity to the Jawbone. With fantastic rural scenery as well as views of the race, Oughtibridge is anticipated to be popular destination for visitors.
The Hub at Abbeyfield Park will be the last chance to catch the race on a big screen before the peloton hits Cote de Wincobank on Jenkin Road, arguably the toughest climb of the whole Grand Depart, while almost at the brow of this climb Wincobank Common will be transformed into a family friendly spectator site. Like all the hubs, theses spectator sites will be equipped with large screens, refreshments, toilets and activities for all.
Meadowhall is situated right in the heart of the Stage 2 route action, with the Jenkin Road hill climb just around the corner and the race coming directly around the shopping centre itself before the final sprint outside Motorpoint Arena.
As a result Meadowhall is hosting a free Fan Fest, not only giving spectators the chance to see the full race on big viewing screens, but also to stand just feet away from the cyclists as they ride past and gear up for their sprint finish.
Set to be a huge celebration for all the family, the Fan Fest will take place in Meadowhall’s Orange Zone Car Parks with a whole host of fun cycling and non-cycling related activities and entertainment throughout the day, as well as the opportunity to take advantage of the 280 stores and over 50 places to eat and drink inside the centre.
Onsite activities include climbing walls, extreme mountain bike shows, mobile caving experiences, mini tennis and basketball sessions, while JE James Cycling will also be hosting specialist coaching sessions. Capital FM will also be broadcasting their coverage live from the site and presenting a live music stage.
For those hoping to catch the action on the finish line, Don Valley Bowl is the designated spectator hub, complete with 100msq large screen, cycle expo featuring local businesses, pop up retail and restaurant showcase, entertainment and much more.
As with all the hubs there will also be a programme of artistic activity throughout the day, while Art in the Park will also be creating some huge aerial view sculptures using local industrial materials to reflect the heritage of this particular area of the city.
Back in Sheffield City Centre celebrations to welcome the Tour will start from Thursday July 3 and run through to Monday July 7. There’ll be a festival vibe in the Peace Gardens with a stage area providing entertainment and music, interspersing the live coverage of the Tour which will be viewable via a large screen. The party will continue until well into the evening on Saturday with live music courtesy of the organisers of Sheffield’s Tramlines music festival.
Fargate will host a French themed market complete with Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe, pop up retail stalls will showcase some of the city’s finest makers in both the Winter Garden and Peace Gardens, while a programme of street entertainment will animate various locations in the city centre.
With added events courtesy of the Yorkshire Festival such as the Sheffield Festival of Colour, Space and Light which will see a giant walk-in inflatable art installation outside Sheffield Cathedral and the Yorkshire in Yellow exhibition at the Millennium Gallery, those wanting to embrace the Tour experience in Sheffield will be spoilt for choice.
For more information on watching the Tour De France in Sheffield visit www.welcometosheffield.co.uk/tdf2014