Tour de France: Yorkshire’s big weekend starts here

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Yorkshire plays host to the Tour de France this weekend with an expectant public hoping for an opening day win for Mark Cavendish in Harrogate today.

All eyes will be on an announcement from Mark Cavendish’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep team about whether the British sprinter will ride in today’s York to Sheffield stage following his dramatic crash just 200m from the finish line yesterday.

Tour de France

Tour de France

Thousands of spectators, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Prime Minister David Cameron, were willing Cavendish on as he entered his mother’s home town of Harrogate.

But he came to grief in the town centre as his mother, Adele Towns, watched from the stands. The VIPs looked as shocked as the masses of cycling fans crowded around the finish line when they heard the news over the speakers.

Cavendish was left prone on the ground clutching his shoulder after colliding with fellow competitor Simon Gerrans, injuring a joint between his right shoulder and collarbone.

He later said he was “gutted” and apologised, saying the crash was his fault.

William, Kate and Harry watched the end of the race together, before presenting the jerseys to the winning riders. Earlier, Kate had started the race at Harewood House, near Leeds, when the royal party chatted to Cavendish and other British riders.

They looked shocked when the commentator announced Cavendish’s fall and even more so when the “Manx Missile” limped back across the line, clearly in pain.

Only half an hour before, the royal trio had been chatting to Cavendish’s mother who was a guest in the royal area.

More than a million people lined the streets of Yorkshire yesterday for stage one amid jubilant scenes as crowds flocked from all over the country to get a glimpse of the 198 racers passing through the county’s striking scenery.

Initial estimates suggested there were 230,000 spectators in the centre of Leeds and more than 10,000 watched the riders on the steep climb over the Buttertubs pass.

Today’s stage starts at the racecourse in York before moving through the historic city centre, passing many of the city’s famous landmarks.

The riders then head for the hills and some classic British climbs, including Holme Moss and Cragg Vale.

They will also tackle some less than classic ascents - such as Jenkin Road in suburban Sheffield - in a route which has been described as one of the toughest opening stages in the history of the race.

Other highlights include the cobbles of the picture-postcard High Street of Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters.

The finish line is outside Sheffield Arena, leaving the teams with easy access to the M1 and day three - the Cambridge to London stage on Monday.