THE MAJORITY of the 2,000 media covering the Tour de France caught only glimpses of the real Yorkshire.
Based in their salle de presse headquarters in Harrogate, the newspaper, TV and radio men took in the sights and sounds of stage one via television pictures.
Even so, the sheer scale of Yorkshire’s staging of the race left experienced commentators struggling for words. There was a notable gasp from the media in the press centre when the leading riders hit cote de Butterturbs, in front of a spectacular crowd, of the sort more usually seen in the high mountains later in the race.
Frenchman Samuel Petrequin, of the Associated Press, has been covering the Tour since 2002.
“I have to admit I was quite taken by the experience,” he said. “You don’t usually find this kind of atmosphere until the race heads to the mountains in the Alps.
“There’s a frenetic atmosphere. I’ve covered stages and Grand Departs, but never seen this kind of atmosphere before. I did not expect such a huge amount of people. I even saw a policeman letting a spectator take a selfie with him.
“You wouldn’t ever get that in France, too serious.”
Petrequin’s colleague Jamey Keaten is on his 11th Tour de France.
He said: “There is an enormous amount of enthusiasm out there.
“We do see a lot of crowds across the whole of France, but I was struck by the depth of the crowd back from the road.
“The crowds were lined up five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 people deep for very long stretches of road. It was pretty impressive.”
Keaten, an American, lived in London for a while, but had not visited Yorkshire before. He said: “People have been really warm.
“You say bonjour out the car window, which I did and you get 50 people saying bonjour back. It was a really nice way to start this race.”
As for the countryside, Keaten – along with most of his media colleagues – saw that mainly via television screens.
But he did take the scenic route to the stage one finish in Harrogate and observed: “That was the other thing that really caught my eye.
“I was chatting to a colleague of mine at the London edit desk and saying how we took some of the back roads, off the course route and noticed the rolling hills, the rocky patches, the grass – and then sheep, they were scattered all about.
“It has also struck me that the landscape is different to most areas you see in France, in that this area is pretty treeless, but rolling, rocky and just beautiful – absolutely beautiful.
“It has been wonderful to see the countryside here and in terms of fan enthusiasm, kind welcome and wonderful countryside, you could not do much better.”
Keaten, however, then had a question of his own.
“What,” he said. “is a Yorkshire pudding?”