As the Tour de France riders start to arrive in Yorkshire ahead of the Grand Départ tomorrow, Wetherby is hosting its fair share with Italian team Lampre Merida taking up residence at the Wood Hall Hotel and Spa.
The team, which includes the world champion rainbow jersey holder Rui Costa, arrived on Wednesday and went out on their first ride yesterday, Thursday July 3, and the team has been impressed with Wetherby and Yorkshire.
Team rider Chris Horner, who will tomorrow take part in his seventh Tour de France, said, however, that the people of Yorkshire have a hard act to follow after the Olympics in 2012.
“Just from the presentation yesterday it was a huge event with lots of people, but the Yorkshire people are being put to a high standard because I was in London for the Olympics and for the 2007 Tour and it was great, so the bar is set high,” he said.
Still, the 43-year-old cyclist from the USA said he is looking forward to the Tour coming through Yorkshire.
He said: “We just got here and yesterday was the first time we went for a ride. We did the final 20km, so we know what to expect tomorrow.
“It is a pretty difficult course, but the deciding factor of the race is going to be the wind conditions.
“We have got a great team, and for the sprints too. It is always difficult to win the Tour de France, so you get the best riders in the world and the best sprinters, so if you ride a bike well you are good at the Tour.
“For me being in Yorkshire makes it simple. I’m not an Italian, though I’m in an Italian team, so when I’m here it is pretty close to being at home.”
Stationed at the hotel, the team set off on their first ride yesterday and were guided by the concierge Martin Lister who took the team on a three hour trip across the course on his scooter.
Now familiar with the route, the riders, from seven different nations, went out on their second ride at 10am today.
Before this, however, the Wetherby News was given a guided tour around the team’s bus, where they watch TV, eat, drink, relax, and even shower after a race.
The team’s general coordinator Andrea Appiani said: “We use the bus as our second home, and for transport from one hotel to another.
“They can take a shower here but guests can also have coffee and we can cook here. Just after the race the riders eat rice, so we can put that in the microwave.”
Mr Appiani also spoke about the team’s bikes and why they chose Wetherby as the ideal destination.
“We decided to stay in Wetherby because we think it is a quieter, richer zone with a lot of very beautiful houses. All the gardens are also nicely done and you can see that there is care behind it and it is lovely,” he said.
“Yorkshire is really caring about this event and it has been very organised. It isn’t simple to make sure everything is set in the proper way, but they have done a good job.
“There are also good rides to cycle, despite the traffic, because it is quite hilly, and the hospitality of the locals has been very good. Yorkshire is not so different to Tuscany with its real hills.
“Rui Costa has a different frame on his bike to make it lighter. It’s called King of the Mountain.
“The wheels are lighter, the handlebar is lighter, everything is lighter to support the cyclist on the climb. He started using this back for the Tour de Swiss, which he won, so that’s a good sign.”
The hotel itself is, of course, happy to host the team and pleased that Wetherby, just on the doorstep of the Grand Départ, can do its bit.
general manager Gordon Burniston said: “I think there is a buzz around the place with the guests still arriving, and the staff as well. I think they would all work for free this weekend if they could.
“Mr Costa is very focused on what he has to do with his team but the whole team has been fantastic. They have been really nice to the staff and have been interactive with them.
“But they are here to focus on the race, so we are making sure that they are getting a good night’s rest and all the right food, which is very specific, so we are working closely with the team to make sure they are getting all they need to help them win the race.”