Harrogate’s finest hour: Relive the Tour de France

The Harrogate Advertiser commemorates the Tour de France.
The Harrogate Advertiser commemorates the Tour de France.

No review of the year would be complete without revisiting the glorious weekend of July 5 and 6, when the world’s largest annual sporting event - the Tour de France - arrived with a bang.

Relive every twist and turn as the action-packed event arrived on our doorstep.


Grand Depart

The Yorkshire Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France was given a royal send-off by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry at Harewood House.

Earl of Harewood David Lascelles said: “I don’t think there can be any doubt that Yorkshire’s Grand Depart was a huge success, with the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry the icing on the cake.”

The trio chatted with riders, including then reigning Tour champion Chris Froome, adding to the atmosphere of anticipation and excitement for the greatest race on earth.

To wild cheers, the Duchess then turned her attention to the primary duty - cutting the ribbon - and the race had begun.

Masham Packed

Masham was buzzing with residents who gave a rapturous Yorkshire welcome to the Tour.

Thousands flocked to the small market town and hotels and guest houses were booked up, as elsewhere in the Harrogate district, as soon as the Tour de France route was announced, and the Saturday market stalls, shops, and pubs were consistently busy, recording their best trade of 2014.

Information officer at the Mashamshire community office Neil McIntosh said: “It was the best publicity for Masham ever.

“We were directing people to the next nearest place to stay, sometimes miles away.”

Spectators turned up as early as 7am, while others watched the race’s progress on the big screens at dedicated visitor parks.

West Tanfield Booms

The population of the village of West Tanfield boomed as its 500 residents woke to the sight of thousands of visitors filing down the streets.

By 11am on Saturday, July 5, the word was officially out that the Royals would be visiting and in the space of an hour thousands had picked their spots to watch the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry arrive two hours before the Tour entourage.

Harry Gawthorpe, seven, and his nine-year-old brother Barnie presented the couple with friendship bracelets they had made, and Prince Harry tried Tour de Ale at West Tanfield’s Bruce Arms, a beer brewed to mark the occasion by Pennine Brewing Company in the neighbouring village of Well in Bedale.

Proprietor of The Bull Gil Richardson said: “It was just awe-inspiring how it came together.

“I was worn out but excited - the world came to Tanfield.”

ripon celebrations

In Ripon the St Wilfrid Procession - the annual feast day celebrating the bishop who founded the city more than 1,300 years ago - is usually the biggest day out.

In 2014, however, this title had to go to the Tour de France celebrations, embraced by residents and visitors alike in the cathedral city.

Mayor of Ripon Coun Mick Stanley said: “What an absolutely fabulous day for this marvellous sporting occasion.

“We had visitors from all across the world. They came to Ripon as a meeting place of choice because of all the wonderful attractions we had and the fact that you could stand or sit in the square, look at the big screen and see all the events, and were within a 10-minute walk of the race route.”

As the riders pedalled their way towards Ripon’s iconic clock tower the race was not without incident in the city, with at least two riders coming off their bikes as they tried to negotiate a sharp corner.

Cheers in Ripley

The anticipation and hard work ahead of the Tour de France in Ripley paid off. Sir Thomas Ingilby, owner of the Ripley Castle estate, said: “This was everything we had hoped it would be over the past four years.

“This will give Harrogate tremendous confidence that it can host events like this and it can now move forward.”

Outside the gates, stalls served street food and lemonade, ice-creams, and savoury favourites, and the expectation of the estimated 12,000 people lining the streets was palpable.

And when the peloton of nearly 200 tore through the street, cheers from an ecstatic crowd greeted them and it was clear what everyone came to the village to see.

Killinghall Dresses Up

As Yorkshire’s best-dressed village, Killinghall proved a real sight to see, even before the caravane arrived in all its splendour.

Bunting, flags, posters of support, and road-side stalls filled with food and memorabilia proved the enthusiasm of the village’s occupants.

Joanne Clarkson, who helped Killinghall win its award, embodied this spirit.

“I was part of it for about six months, gearing up with the bunting for the best-dressed village,” she said. “I couldn’t wait for it all to come through, it was so exciting.”

Harrogate ‘Electric’

The total turnout in Harrogate of more than 100,000 people was higher than at any Grand Depart in the history of the Tour de France.

The streets were packed out, with 85,000 people enjoying a free four-day party on West Park Stray.

More than 22,000 people visited the fan park on July 5, when a crowd sat transfixed, staring at the big screen as the racers came in just a few hundred yards down the road.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said: “How can we ever top this?”

“The atmosphere was electric. All the ingredients came together to make the weekend truly unforgettable.”

Riders came careering through the streets of Harrogate to a sprint finish on West Park Stray were met by euphoric cheers, proving that this really was one of the greatest days in Harrogate’s history.

Director of the Tour de France Christian Proudhomme said: “There were so many people lining every single street. It was amazing, and emotional.

“And everybody with a smile on their face.”

The carnival feel, spurred on by fine weather, stepped up even further with the arrival of the Royal trio, followed shortly after by Prime Minister David Cameron, who was joined in the top box by his son Elwyn, Geoffrey Boycott, Mark Cavendish’s mum, and a crowd of dignitaries. Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate Coun Jim Clark (Con) said: “This was a joyous day for Harrogate.

“We waited for it for 18 months and it was tremendous. The whole of Harrogate turned out and everyone was happy.”

The excited tension reached fever pitch as the riders drew ever nearer, preceded by the Tour caravane.

But nothing could prepare for those final moments, amid the gasps of anguish as Mark Cavendish crashed out with just minutes to go, as Marcel Kittel raced to glory. Cavendish, a local favourite for many in his mother’s home town, was given a standing ovation as he struggled and pedalled across the finish line, clearly in pain.

And the fan park party didn’t stop when the race was over. Live music went on all evening with Harrogate band Purple Mafia taking to the stage.

There are now calls to use the Stray for more big events, and the idea of a Stray festival has since gained momentum.


Knaresborough Eager

Knaresborough, Yorkshire’s best-dressed town, was eager to welcome stage two of the Tour.

Someone with a prime viewing sport was Knaresborough Mayor Tony Handley, who transformed his home in homage to the King of the Mountain spotted jersey.

“It got a lot of attention, and seeing all the other towns on television and the effort they have made makes it even more amazing that Knaresborough has won.

“It was all such a community effort. Everyone came together to support the Tour and it was great.”

Barely an inch of pavement was visible in the town as thousands watched the peloton racing down the high street, and the jubilant crowds continued their celebrations long after it had whizzed off.

From the moment the Tour de France route was announced, the town’s plans to welcome the race captured the spirit of the whole of Knaresborough.

Jacob and Olivia Cardani and Ruth Hall decided they would make their way to Knaresborough House at 4.30am after being swept up in the excitement watching the race pass through Harrogate on the previous day.

They said: “We wanted to get there early because of how amazing the atmosphere was. And the Tour was even better here in Knaresborough because there is a really close community in the town.”

Starbeck Stars

Huge crowds flocked to Knaresborough Road in Starbeck to cheer on the cycling champions.

Many people hosted garden parties and barbecues in the area, but as the caravane drew near people came in droves to line the race route.

And within seconds it was all over. The first breakaway whizzed passed, followed shortly after by the remaining riders.

Still, the celebrations didn’t stop. Rev Francis Wainaina of St Andrew’s Church said: “This was the best way for a community to celebrate, and that is what the Tour de France gave us.”

Bilton Passion

The people of Bilton and New Park also did Harrogate proud, putting on passionate and enthusiastic displays of support.

Harrogate Scouts were selling teas, coffees, and snacks from stalls, and Bilton Working Men’s Club pulled out all the stops with an outdoor bar, food, live bands, a charity raffle, and fairground rides.

And down the road a multicultural party was in full swing as revellers from France, Spain, Poland, and England partied together outside the home of Francois Morillon who, as restaurant manager at Harrogate’s Drum and Monkey, even hosted five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault.

Mr Morillon said: “In France they were amazed to see the pictures from Harrogate. It was great for Yorkshire.”

Swinsty Exit

Blubberhouses marked the Tour’s exit from North Yorkshire.

The roads around Swinsty and Fewston reservoirs deservedly commanded the eyes of the world.

Long-time Tour fan Don Pope-Russell said: “I have watched the Tour de France for many years on the television, but this was the first time I watched it in person. Yorkshire did one hell of a job.”

Our Finest Hour

This county pride, evident all over Harrogate district and beyond, was an enduring message celebrating the pinnacle of hard work and an overall outstanding Tour de France. Our finest hour.