‘The city came alive… I felt proud to be a York resident’

The Tour de France peloton makes its way along Goodramgate in York. Photograph: Richard McDougall
7 Jul 2014 @ 10.23 pm
| Opinion

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Click to see the full image. The Tour de France peloton makes its way along Goodramgate in York. Photograph: Richard McDougall

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Miles On Monday

The weekly thoughts of York writer Miles Salter

I didn’t get to Glastonbury. Or Wimbledon. Most of the World Cup has passed me by. In what has been a busy few weeks for major events, most of it (alas) has passed me by.

But I did get to the centre of York yesterday to cheer the Tour De France riders as they went past the Minster.

I was part of the crowd. And what a crowd. Thousands of people from York and elsewhere turned out.

The public engagement in the two stages of the Tour De France was magnificent. At the Minster, the crowd was four people deep at the side of the road.

People cheered at the racecourse. And by Clifford’s Tower. And on Bootham. On Bishopthorpe Road flags made the area a riot of colour, before the area was turned into a street party.

At St Michael-le-Belfry Church, a band played jazz and a bouncy castle kept kids happy whilst the church dished out free drinks and cakes.

In Rowntree Park a big screen showed the race to hundreds of people, sitting on the grass as fairground rides turned.

On Gillygate, pub owners and cafés tempted visitors with burgers and cakes. On the top of the Minster, a yellow jersey was spotted by the helicopter cameras.

The whole city was alive with a vibrant celebration of one of the world’s biggest sporting events. I felt proud to be a York resident.

And the county as a whole did itself proud. From Leeds to Harrogate and to Cragg Vale, where the residents made the Guinness Book of Records with 12,000 metres of bunting, the whole of Yorkshire got into the Tour De France.

An estimated million people lined the route. The television commentator said that “This has been the most remarkable départ in Tour history, in terms of public engagement”, whilst one of the Tour riders said that “Yorkshire is second to none.”

There were minor niggles: local hero Mark Cavendish’s crash on Saturday meant he had to pull out of the tour, bitterly disappointed that he couldn’t carry on.

And the curse of the selfie showed itself as members of the public tried to take pictures as cyclists zipped past. Riders were not pleased, and pleaded for room.

The Guardian called selfies ‘the new pain in the arse’ for riders.

On BBC Radio 4 this morning, Gary Verity, the man who brought the tour to Yorkshire, was asked if the organisers had underestimated the number of people who would turn out.

But these quibbles aside, Verity and his team should be congratulated: the weekend was a triumph for the tour and for Yorkshire.

A global audience saw the county’s population at its best: enthusiastic, big hearted and community spirited.

Well done everybody who worked on this massive project, and let’s keep thinking big.

We could do great things when we try. Right now, I’m so proud to be a resident of York, and Yorkshire.