When Saturday July 5
Where are we?
We’re in Yorkshire. The home of plain-speaking folk, delicious bitter, flat caps and whippets and a dozen other clichés. If you add together its constituent parts, it’s the largest county in England and, arguably, the one with the strongest cultural identity. The stage starts in Leeds, the largest city in the county, and finishes in charming Harrogate, like its French twin Bagnères-de-Bigorre, a spa town. The Tour has become accustomed to holding its Grand Départ on foreign soil, but Yorkshire’s opening weekend promises to be unique. As Christian Prudhomme, the Tour boss said, even in summer the county’s weather can lay on all four seasons in a single day.
What’s on the route?
The route heads out to the Dales and Moors via Ilkley and Skipton, heading north to Leyburn and Ripon, before looping round to finish in Harrogate. The course also passes the stunning Aysgarth falls. The roads are rolling, and the fourth-category Côte de Cray and third-category Côte de Buttertubs and Côte de Grinton Moor are the only categorised climbs on the route but it won’t be an easy day. There’s about an hour’s racing from the top of the final climb to the finish, so the chasers and sprinters have time to get organised.
What might happen?
This stage is already being billed as a showdown between the two best sprinters in the world. It’s Great Britain versus Germany. Little versus Large. Mark Cavendish versus Marcel Kittel. In all likelihood, this stage will come down to a bunch sprint, although their teams, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Giant-Shimano, won’t find it easy to chase on the grippy Yorkshire roads.
If you’re there
Get yourself to Betty’s Tea Room in Harrogate for afternoon tea. Failing that, the race goes through Masham, home of the excellent Black Sheep Brewery, so try to find time for a pint.
The stage heads into the Yorkshire Dales, a rolling patchwork of greeny-brown-covered limestone hills cut across by rivers and drystone walls.
Stage one: Full route details
A pictorial preview of the route of the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France in Yorkshire