It’s going to be bonkers. Massive fun, but full on, no holds barred doolally bonkers. The Grand Départ of the Tour de France finally arrives in York this Sunday, July 6 and the city will never have seen anything like it.
One estimate says that the population of York is set to double for the day, with 180,000 ready to line the streets to see off Chris Froome and the rest of the world’s elite cyclists.
The peloton of riders processes through the centre of York and out onto the A59 where the race begins.
So what’s going on – and where should you go to see it? Here’s the lowdown.
When does it all happen?
Everything kicks off from York Racecourse. All timings are approximate.
Just before 9am Procession of cycling juniors.
9am Caravan starts. This is a 440-vehicle procession which includes marketing vehicles and floats distributing free goodies and marketing materials. This will last around 1 hour 30 minutes.
30 minute break
11am – peloton leaves the racecourse.
How long will it last?
Campleshon Road, Bishopthorpe Road, Bishopgate Street, Skeldergate, Tower Street, Clifford Street, Nessgate, Spuriergate, Coney Street, St. Helen’s Square, Davygate, St. Sampson’s Square, Church Street, Goodramgate, Deangate, Minster Yard, Duncombe Place, St. Leonard’s Place, Bootham, Clifton, Water End, Boroughbridge Road, A59 to Harrogate.
According to the official itinerary they will be out of York by 11.20am – although they could take as long as 45 minutes.
Starting at York Racecourse the peloton of cyclists will head into the city of York, passing by Clifford’s Tower, the Mansion House and York Minster before heading out of town on Boroughbridge Road.
The official starting point of the race itself is on the edge of the city at Trenchard Road just before the A1237.
The full list of streets on the route is in the panel, and you can watch anywhere along here. But not on the City Walls – they’re closed for safety reasons.
Where to watch: The start
York Racecourse is an official “spectator hub”, but this is a ticket only affair, and all 25,000 tickets have long been snapped up.
If you are among the lucky ones, the gates for the racecourse open at 7am, and you can enjoy music from The Rubettes and The Stranglers as well as family and sporting activities throughout the day.
Otherwise, if you want the first glimpse of the peloton, head for Campleshon Road.
Bound to be packed, but expect a special atmosphere in York’s self-styled “most vibrant neighbourhood”.
Once the race has whizzed down the street, stay for the Bishopthorpe Road Street Party, on from noon to 7pm. It features live music, entertainment, stalls, children’s games, food and drink.
The car park off Bishopthorpe Road is closed from Saturday, July 5 at 5.30pm to Sunday, July 6 at 10pm.
Further along, the banks of the city walls alongside Bishopgate Street should afford good views of the riders.
Don’t plan to watch from the top of the tower itself – on Sunday, it only opens between 2pm and 6pm.
Merchandise will be on sale, and it is said to be the best site for spectators with bikes.
Expect the likes of Nessgate, Coney Street, Davygate and St Helen’s Square to be rammed, so get here early to grab a spot.
Because of the sharp cornering at St Helen’s Square, this is a good location to see the riders as they slow down.
If you time it right you might get a window seat in one of the numerous cafés which look over the route. Bettys, for example, is open from 7am on Sunday.
But be warned – other places are staying shut on Sunday morning. Browns department store on Davygate, for example, will open from 1pm-5pm.
St Sampson’s Square has more space, and offers good viewing opportunities thanks to another sharp turn into Church Street. You can also pitch up on the Parliament Street side of Church Street.
Although Goodramgate is another narrow street, the spill over area at its junction with King’s Square and Low Petergate allows spectators a little more wriggle room.
Around York Minster
There’s a little more breathing space on College Green and College Street.
On the west side there’s space around the Boer War memorial at Duncombe Place, opposite the Dean Court Hotel.
Perhaps the best spot along St Leonard’s Place is Exhibition Square, in front of the closed art gallery.
Bootham and beyond
One of York’s wider streets, Bootham is as good a road as any to pitch up for the peleton.
Further up, Clifton Green borders a sharp left turn for the riders.
On Water End, there’s some space in front of the youth hostel and over the bridge where the ings meet the road. The bridge itself is very narrow however.
The cyclists ride the length of Boroughbridge Road which should make it a little easier to find some free pavement, before the entourage crosses the ring road and starts the race proper.
The spectator hubs
You don’t need a ticket for these free spectator hubs. All will open from 8am until about 7.30pm and will have catering, entertainment, a Sports Activation Zone and large viewing screens for the sporting action.
A short walk from the Bishopthorpe Road stretch of the route, Rowntree Park will feature entertainment, children’s play facilities, stalls and big screen showing the action.
For fairly random reasons, there’s a singalong version of the movie Grease movie at 2pm.
As well as the big screens showing the sport, there’s any number of family friendly activities including Cycle Stunt Shows and an opportunity for children to cycle onto a giant airbag.
Musical entertainment will be provided by both York’s Military Wives Choir and the York Concert Band.
York Designer Outlet
Entertainment here includes a Parisian tavern, family activities, vintage and craft stalls and a fairground.
The nearby Park&Ride will provide bus services every ten minutes throughout the day until 8pm linking the Designer Outlet to Fishergate, Fulford and the city centre.