The world’s greatest bike race got off to a flying start at Harewood this weekend. It was a truly historic occasion made even more special by Royal visitors, the Red Arrows, perfect weather and a wonderful crowd.
The Official Ceremonial Start began with the Tour de France caravan containing upwards of 140 cars which set off from Leeds at 11am. The excitement began to build as everything from tea bags to t-shirts were thrown out to the crowds.
After the caravan, came the arrival of the Royal party. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were greeted by Lord and Lady Harewood who introduced them to Patricia, Countess of Harewood, Deputy Prime Minster, the French Ambassador, Lord Lieutenant, Vice Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff.
Overhead the sound of helicopters got the crowd’s attention as the peloton grew nearer. There were thousands of people lining the Drive and the atmosphere was truly electric. As the riders reached the official start line, they were called to a halt. Our top British cyclists were at the front of the pack. Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates were introduced to the Royal party who wished them well for the race.
The icing on the cake came with the arrival of the Red Arrows who made two passes of the House and crowds. After the fly past, the bikes set off on their 2,277 mile journey.
Lord Harewood, said: “But, much more important, a huge thank you to you and everyone else at Harewood for their fantastic energy, commitment, good humor and hard work. Without all of you, and a little bit of help from the weather, Saturday wouldn’t have been the huge success that it was.”
Alongside Le Grand Depart was the Dare 2b Festival of Cycling keeping the crowds entertained. The Festival attracted 10,000 campers and glampers as well as local visitors here for the day. They enjoyed the Tour de France on huge screens as they sat in the sun and soaked up the atmosphere.
It was an incredible weekend which has been made possible by thousands of hours of hard work. The organisers, staff, police, local councils, volunteers and local residents have made this a real moment in history.