THE CLEMENTHORPE area of York has been voted one of Britain’s coolest places to live.
Mid-way between Knavesmire – home of the racecourse – and the city centre, it was ninth on a list compiled by The Times.
Compared to London’s Notting Hill, for its cafes, shops and bars, it became even more desirable today when it hosted the first revolutions of the Tour de France’s second stage.
Festooned with bunting and with a yellow bike on every shop front, Bishopthorpe Road, the trendiest part of a hip area, was en-fete, taking advantage of the road closure to host a street party after the riders had passed.
York has an ancient and chequered history, but it has rarely, if ever, hosted anything as memorable as this.
Even at such an early phase of the race, crowds were enormous, lining both sides of the road and cheering everything that moved, be it a press car, the publicity caravan or motorcycle escort.
The Gendarmerie who marshall the Tour de France aren’t known for their sense of fun, unlike the British motorcycle cops, who were high-fiving fans and waving for all they were worth.
When the French bobbies start waving back, it means something special is happening. Media who cover the race every year were amazed.
York Racecourse hosted the depart fictif, the start of today’s roll out, the traditional procession before the racing proper begins a few kilometres further down the route.
Admission was by ticket only, with the thousands on offer snapped up within hours of them going on sale earlier in the year.
Scenes inside the racecourse were reminiscent of an Ebor festival race day, though with the crowd considerably more sober, if practically dressed for a damp and chilly morning.
David Millar, the British rider currently working as a television pundit after not being selected for this year’s race, described scenes as the riders signed in as “nuts”.
“Normally when you sign on there might be a couple of hundred people,” he said. “This whole place is full, as if it was Grand National day.”
Minutes before the riders left the racecourse there was a flypast by a Lancaster bomber and Spitfire escort. Three times they made a pass over the start on a circuit to the Minster; it was a spine tingling moment.
This must have been what Welcome to Yorkshire dreamed of when the ridiculous and far fetched idea of trying to attract the Tour de France first took shape.
York is a beautiful city at any time, but it has never looked more gorgeous. The route of the roll out was designed to show York to its best effect and it did that perfectly.
York Minster – La cathedrale Saint-Pierre – sported its own yellow jersey, an obvious attraction for camera crews in the circling helicopters.
The race also passed the famous Clifford’s Tower, covered in yellow bunting and on a loop through the city centre before out of out of York and on to the A59.
And then they were gone.