Once in a lifetime: How Grand Depart fans poured into Leeds

0
Have your say

IT was a day when the eyes of the world were on Leeds - and the city responded with an unprecedented show of support for the planet’s greatest cycling race.

Follow the Tour LIVE all weekend as it makes its way through Yorkshire. On-the-spot reports, pictures and great video.

The Grand Depart sets off from Leeds en route to a Royal welcome at Harewood

The Grand Depart sets off from Leeds en route to a Royal welcome at Harewood

Download our wallchart of the Tour de France route and riders

Tour de France picture galleries

In scenes unlike any seen in Yorkshire’s unofficial capital in recent memory, thousands upon thousands of people, 230,000 in all, descended on the city centre in hope of seeing two-wheeled history made.

Never before had the Tour de France come this far north, and with the race unlikely to come back to Yorkshire any time soon it seemed as if virtually the entire city had turned out to see the riders off.

The Grand Depart sets off from Leeds en route to a Royal welcome at Harewood

The Grand Depart sets off from Leeds en route to a Royal welcome at Harewood

Spectators started streaming in from early in the morning, and by 8am, a full three hours before the unofficial start of the race, the pavements around The Headrow were teeming with people.

The magnitude of the event drew famous faces, such as England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, as well as a host of vendors selling their wares on the walk from the station and on The Headrow itself.

Those lucky enough to have an office window vantage point looked on from up on high, while those at ground level jostled for the best view on the steps of the Leeds Art Gallery.

Roop Singh, 54, an MC and presenter from Cross Gates, Leeds, said: “This is the biggest party in the world, it is happening today on our doorstep, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.

The Grand Depart sets off from Leeds en route to a Royal welcome at Harewood

The Grand Depart sets off from Leeds en route to a Royal welcome at Harewood

“It ticks all the boxes, health and economics, what more could you ask for? This is bringing us all together.”

Leeds Central MP Hillary Benn said:”It is the most wonderful day for Leeds and the most wonderful two days for Yorkshire. What a great advert for our city and Yorkshire it is. I left home at 7.30am and walked in, people were streaming in and we were all heading for the same place. It is a great atmosphere.”

Mary Johnson-Green, 68, from Pudsey, got one of the best seats in the house as she secured a place on the pavement within touching distance of the cyclists with husband Chris, 71.

She said: “I thought it was the most fantastic thing I have seen in Leeds ever, and I have lived here for 25 years. We had fantastic seats, hopefully I got some good photographs.

“It was like having your own little armchair in The Headrow. It was a great sight, they are fine specimens. We came by bus from Pudsey, we have been well looked after ever since we arrived. Well done Leeds!”

Mr Johnson-Green, who suffers from motor neurone disease and needs a wheelchair to get about, said it was “superb to be so close”.

Cleaner John Roden, 63, who came to Leeds from Cardiff for the event, said: “It has been brilliant, the atmosphere has been great. I am just glad we got the weather because it can be temperamental. I checked out Holme Moss yesterday and it was horizontal rain, there were lots of cyclists going up to the summit. It was a trek but it is brilliant now I am here.”