After a small absence, Wheelie Good Guys are back; ready to bring you more fantastic cycling stories. For Tour de France fans we have a real treat, as this week we’ll be bringing you some of our exclusive footage and images from the event in Sheffield. We’ll also be rounding up the highlights of the Grand Depart, through a range of fantastic articles; whilst also taking a look at the further progression of the race.
Resoundingly successful, and equally as memorable; the Tour de France won the hearts of the UK public this weekend. The country can look back on the event with great pride, as cycling fans from far and wide descended to watch Le Tour here.
The Yorkshire Grand Depart was nothing short of spectacular; with race director Christian Prudhomme dubbing it the ‘grandest Grand Depart’ in the race’s 111-year history. Many wonderful British locations have been put well and truly on the map; as thousands of fans lined the streets of the great county for Stages 1 and 2.
Prudhomme also stated on Monday that ‘the question is not if, but when’ with regards to the Tour returning to the UK. To the UK he also said a resounding ‘thank you’, saying that ‘it was unbelievable. I just want to say again: merci beaucoup. It was incredible – what the British people have done is magnificent.’
The Yorkshire stages were spellbinding – with over 2.5 million people lining the streets of the county for the Grand Depart. As Stage 1 begun, it was the first time the event had visited England since 2007. Marcel Kittel emerged victorious over the 190.5km Stage 1 route; as he claimed the yellow jersey on the opening day for a second successive year.
The first stage was spectacular, with the sprint finish a particular dramatic highlight. It was not all good news for UK fans, as Mark Cavendish spectacularly crashed out at the finish of Stage 1. The ‘Manx Missile’ dislocated his shoulder and suffered ligament damage in the crash during the sprint finish at the end of the first stage; and has since said he’s ‘absolutely devastated’.
Forced to Withdraw
Cavendish told fans on Sunday that he ‘had some optimism that the swelling would go down overnight’, but after receiving negative news he was forced to withdraw. He stated that he knew how serious his injuries were ‘because normally in crashes I bounce back straight away.’
Interestingly, Cavendish has since made clear his anger at conterversial ‘deliberate crash’ claims made by the Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff; who accused Cavendish of reckless cycling. Kristoff risked the wrath of UK fans on Monday when he said that ‘it looked like Cavendish caused the crash on purpose.’ He went on to say that ‘it’s not the first time he has done this and I hope he calms down a little in the future.’
Cavendish’s agent Simon Bayliff said yesterday evening that the rider is ‘shocked and angry at the comments.’ Bayliff also stated that he ‘would normally say it’s best to let some things go, but this is libelous and we are considering legal action.’
Three Britons Remaining
The Omega-Pharma Quick Step rider has since stated that he may need surgery; and is widely expected to miss the Commonwealth Games which are due to start in Glasgow on 23rd July. His withdrawal means defending champion Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates are the only three Britons remaining in the race.
Stage 2 – which saw the peloton travel from York to Sheffield –was equally spectacular; with some truly draw-dropping scenery on show to the world. It was won by the Italian Vicenzo Nibali; who is currently the overall leader of this year’s Tour.
The brutal climbs of Jenkin Road and Holme Moss were just two of the many highlights from a wonderful day of racing. Upon winning the stage, Nibali said that his ‘main goal is to get a good result at the end of the Tour de France.’
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‘I Love the Atmosphere’
He also stated that he doesn’t want ‘to lose (his) head but I’m delighted to get the yellow jersey after having won the red jersey at the Vuelta a Espana and the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia. The victory is important for me, the team and Italy.’
Yesterday’s third stage in London saw Giant-Shimano rider Marcel Kittel emerge victorious once again, after he headed a late sprint to win the stage – which travelled from Cambridge to London. Peter Sagan finished second, ahead of Australia’s Mark Renshaw who came third.
Kittel stated afterwards that ‘emotionally, this win is close to the one I got on the Champs-Elysees in Paris last year. Winning on The Mall, that’s what I dreamed of, it’s really fantastic to win here. On the Finishing line, the crowd was fantastic. I love the atmosphere.’
‘Like Being in a Disco for Four Hours’
Team Sky rider Froome – Britain’s greatest hope – found himself fifth placed in the overall standings after the end of Stage 3; and was quick to praise British fans after the first stage: ‘It was so noisy. My ears are ringing now; it was like being in a disco for four hours. Everyone’s going on about how good it was.’
Froome did however say that the riders needed ‘a bit of space’; after some riders raised their concerns with regards to the behavior of some fans. Fellow Britain Geraint Thomas also said that whilst ‘it was great to race on home roads’ it could be ‘quite dangerous at times.’
He also stated that stated that ‘there’s not much racing on British roads and people don’t understand how fast we’re going and how close we get. They don’t realise we use every part of the road.’
‘A Dangerous Mix of Vanity and Stupidity’
Other riders were more outspoken in their criticism of fans watching the Grand Depart. BMC’s American rider Tejay van Garderen described the practice of spectators taking ‘selfies’ as ‘a dangerous mix of vanity and stupidity.’
Whilst it has been fantastic to see the interest in the UK for the race, it is understandable that the riders have raised concerns. On the whole however, the vast majority of the Grand Depart has been a phenomenal success, uniting the nation in honour of this great sporting event.
Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of the tour organizers TdfHUB2014 Ltd said that ‘the passion of the crowds in Yorkshire has really made this a weekend to remember. There has been a huge amount of planning and hard work from all the partners involved to ensure the first two stages were a success.’
He went on to say that ‘we have once again showcased how the UK can deliver amazing events and a world-wide audience has seen the best of Yorkshire, and the best of the UK.’ The chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire – Gary Verity – went further; stating that he was ‘still trying to absord what went on but Yorkshire was the big winner; I am sure.’
(Quotes gathered from BBC, ITV and Guardian)