They came; they saw; they conquered. The gladiators of a Gallic-themed sporting spectacle with a global flavour arrived in Sheffield on Sunday and rode out leaving a smile on the faces of an entire city.
The Tour de France’s dalliance with the dales will be remembered by everyone who was there and there is now a hope that witnessing the world’s cycling elite on their very own roads, will help to inspire a new generation of two-wheeled sportsmen and women.
The word ‘legacy’ now supersedes every major event, often before it has actually taken place, but in this case it is right that we should wonder whether the interest in Le Tour, which saw hundreds of thousands of people line the city’s roads for the latter part of Stage Two, surrounded merely the pageantry rather than the sporting excellence on show.
Already, within the build-up to the Grand Depart in Leeds, it was revealed that a regular Tour of Yorkshire would be established, bringing top class cyclists back to the region and surely to Sheffield, which showed at the weekend that its steep roads are a terrific test for the world’s best.
British cycling is already on a high, though only Rotherham’s Ben Swift can lay claim to being among the true elite from around these parts. So is it a sport that could now spawn a generation of Sheffield stars?
“Even before the weekend, we have noticed that there has been a big upturn in cyclists recently,” said James Allen, a rider with Langsett Cycles Race Team, who has also written a book, 50 Classic Cycle Climbs: Yorkshire and Peak District.
“When we are about in places like Castleton and Hathersage and elsewhere around the Sheffield area we have seen more and more people about.
“Coming off the back of the buzz surrounding the Tour, I would expect a few more people now to try and get into it.”
He added: “We have a few young people coming through, who are starting to rise in the same kinds of events that I do, so that shows there is potential there.
“All we can do is hope that more kids have got the buzz.”
However, James was a little concerned that there may be hurdles in the way.
“I think there needs to be a culture shift in cycling in terms of safety, which I am sure puts some people off, especially parents.
“I have noticed that people are a bit more wary of cyclists and give us a bit more room, but you still have to be very careful.
“It is going to take a long time though for people to start thinking more about cyclists.”
He added: “From a competitive point of view it is also difficult to put on events because if they get to a certain size then you need to bring in the National Escort Group and close some roads which costs a lot of money and so that ends up being added to the cost of entering races. That is obviously prohibitive.”