Cycling euphoria hits district as crowds go wild for Tour de France Grand Depart

Wharfedale Observer: Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 06/07/2014 - Cycling - Tour de France 2014 - Stage 2, York to Sheffield - Yorkshire, England - The peloton Passes through Addingham for the second time in Le Tour. (7953704) Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 06/07/2014 - Cycling - Tour de France 2014 - Stage 2, York to Sheffield - Yorkshire, England - The peloton Passes through Addingham for the second time in Le Tour. (7953704)

The district impresses millions of viewers worldwide as spectators turned out in force to cheers on the cyclists competing in the world’s greatest race, the Tour de France. JIM JACK reports

There were euphoric scenes across Wharfedale as the area hosted an "outstandingly succesful" opening stage of the Tour de France.

Thousands of visitors and residents lined the sun-kissed streets of Arthington, Pool-in-Wharfedale, Otley, Burley-in-Wharfedale, Ilkley and Addingham on Saturday to cheer on the famous cycling race.

Massive crowds had greeted the riders in Leeds city centre earlier as they set off - and they received raucous roadside support all the way to Harewood House.

It was there, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were in attendance, that the 101st Tour de France was given its ceremonial start and treated to a fly over by the Red Arrows.

The race then headed off and was greeted by a sea of yellow bunting, cycling-themed decorations - including cut-out bicycles in the grounds of St Wilfrid's Church - and cheering spectators as it passed through Arthington and Pool.

That served as an impressive taster of what was to come at Otley, a cycling heartland in its own right thanks - to the annual Cycle Races - and the hometown of Olympian Lizzie Armitstead.

The place was simply awash with fans, flags and banners.

Leader of Otley Town Council and chairman of the Otley Tour de France steering committee, Councillor John Eveleigh, said: "It was a wonderful day that brought the whole town together.

"I would like to thank everyone who contributed to making July 5, 2014 such a special day.

"We more than contributed to this amazing international event, and the fact Otley was the first town on the first stage of this year's Tour made it all the more special.

"I spoke to loads of visitors and all of them were so impressed with the welcome they received - hopefully many will want to return!

"One older lady told me she had not seen the like of this since VE Day. That, for me, spoke volumes and I just wish we could bottle that euphoria."

The carnival atmosphere continued as the riders passed thousands more colourfully dressed spectators - many sporting French berets and striped tops - as they made their way along the bypass at Burley-in-Wharfedale.

Another huge welcome greeted them in Ilkley, where the sound of cow bells mixed with renditions of On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at and, courtesy of some Australian fans, even Waltzing Matilda.

Parish Councillor Bryan Websdale, the chairman of ILKLEY2014, said: "The town looked and felt amazing.

"As people and businesses we welcomed, entertained, and put on a terrific show for the thousands of visitors. And, more importantly, we came out in our thousands ourselves to enjoy an unforgettable experience.

"I am personally unsure if Ilkley has witnessed the numbers of people seen over this last weekend before.

"Images of smiling faces, people clapping and cheering in the sunshine, and all within the backdrop of yellow, red and white, and green will be remembered for many years.

"A big collective thank you to all those responsible."

Then it was on to Addingham, where the historic streets were heaving with well-wishers - and the village got to cheer the riders on for a second time when they passed through again on Sunday, July 6, on stage two.

The normally quiet community of Blubberhouses also hosted thousands of visitors on Sunday, when they gathered alongside the A59.

The Tour's Yorkshire stages were watched by an estimated 2.5 million people.

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