IT was no exaggeration to say to that the roar of the crowd at Harewood rivalled that of the Red Arrows as they streaked across the sky.
The riders, hunched together in a tight pack, were given a heroes’ welcome as they rode into the historic grounds with crowds five or six deep at the roadside.
Earlier all eyes had turned to the heavens, not due to the sunshine, but owing to the fact that the guests of honour, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Prince Harry, had landed. As the riders gathered in front of the majestic stately home Christian Prudhomme did the honours and, in the blink of an eye, the Tour de France was underway in Yorkshire.
Among those cheering from the sidelines were Sid Miller and Graham Hinds, lifelong cycling fans who had ridden in from Knaresborough for the event.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Mr Miller.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. If you’d of told me as a teenager that the Tour de France would come to Yorkshire, and for two days, my God i’d of never believed you.
“What a day, an absolute pleasure.”
After the riders dashed off into the glorious countryside for the race the droves of cycling fans stayed put, determined to enjoy the rest of the day.
THE sun came out at Harewood just as the royal helicopter landed to cheers from the thousands of spectators in the grounds.
Crowds 10 or 20 deep continued the noisy welcome as the royals drove down the long drive to the grand house where they were greeted by members of Earl Harewood’s family and Mr Clegg.
The duchess, who was wearing a green Erdem coat over a green Suzannah dress, was given a bouquet by the Earl’s three-year-old grandson, Otis Shard.
The royal party seemed to enjoy the casual atmosphere outside the house - William and Harry both wearing open necked shirts and jeans with a blazer.
All three responded to shouts of “give us a wave” from the crowd who booed every time the French motorbike cameramen blocked their view.
The biggest cheers were reserved for the Tour riders who cruised down the tree-lined drive preceded by race director Christian Prudhomme in a pink car with the man who brought the event to the UK - Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity.
When the riders arrived at the start line, the royal party chatted with the British riders at the front - especially Cavendish - who appeared to thank Kate for coming.
All three royal visitors chatted to Cavendish, Froome and Geraint Thomas, who all seemed relaxed at the start of the three-week long race.
Kate performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony to cheers from the crowds and the royal trio watched from just next to the start line as the teams sped down the hill and out of the park.
Once the riders were out of sight, William, Kate and Harry went over to the hundreds of spectators who had gathered outside Harewood’s impressive edifice.
Harry went to talk to the general public on one side of the road while the duke and duchess made their way down a line of invited guests.
William was heard to say: “The only better view would have been on the back of one of those motorbikes.”
There were more cheers when the royal party climbed back into the helicopter to travel to another part of the stage one route.
A few minutes earlier, a wave of cheers swept out of Leeds city centre and through the northern suburbs as the peleton swept by.
Spectators stood 10 deep at the barriers lining the A61 Scott Hall Road towards Harrogate. They had started arriving from early morning, bagging prime positions, bringing with them camping chairs and even stepladders so that they could have the best vantage point.
Every wall that could be climbed had been by people determined to get the best view.
And everybody who owned a yellow piece of clothing wore it, whether it was a t-shirt, scarf or baseball cap.
The crowds were unbroken all the way towards Harewood, through Moortown and Alwoodley, past Leeds Grammar School, cheering not just the competitors, but the outriding motorcyclists, especially the French gendarmes who worked the route with their Yorkshire counterparts.
It was a carnival atmosphere. One of the gendarmes pulled up by group of excited children, posed for photographs, and then, smiling, let each of them sound the two-tone siren of his motorcycle. The children had been practising their French, and chrorussed “Merci, monsieur,” as he waved farewell.
In the race itself, Jens Voigt, the oldest man in the Tour de France peloton, has led the breakaway through Otley and into Ilkley as the 101st Tour de France got underway amid rousing scenes in West Yorkshire.
Voigt, 42, riding his 17th Tour, led a three-man breakaway along the A660 after the peloton was given a grand send off at Harewood House by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Prince Harry.
All eyes were on British heroes Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome at the start, but it is Voigt, of Trek Factory Racing, along with Nicolas Edet of Cofidis and Benoit Jarrier of Bretagne-Seche who have established a lead of over two minutes on the peloton.