Yorkshire turns out in number to back Tour de Yorkshire cyclists come rain.... and more rain

The riders make their way through Cawood on the way to the finish at Selby. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.The riders make their way through Cawood on the way to the finish at Selby. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
The riders make their way through Cawood on the way to the finish at Selby. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
The holiday weekend had not yet begun and the rain was coming down in stairrods as the cyclists made their way from Doncaster, east through Snaith and Howden and onwards to Beverley – but there was no keeping the crowds away from what had become an annual spectacle.

The fifth running of the Tour de Yorkshire will wend its way through all three Ridings before the riders reach the final finish line in Leeds at teatime on Sunday, when the weather is forecast to have improved.

It was just after 1.20 today when, under an inflatable, Y-shaped starting gate erected in the centre of Doncaster, close to the newly reopened Wool Market, and flanked by the umbrellas of the spectators, the riders began their journey.

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The local MP, Ed Miliband, was among those waving them off. “You can feel the excitement,” he said. “It’s great for cycling but most of all it’s great for the community.”

Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com.Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com.
Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com.

A little earlier, Ray Middleton, 83, had climbed a ladder to fix three yellow bikes above the sign of the dress shop his wife, Pauline, has run for 60 years. One of the wheels was illuminated to create the impression of movement.

The shop, on Bentley High Street, was judged best Tour de Yorkshire window display in a borough-wide competition run by the council.

“Ironically, it won a shop window competition in the first year it was open,” said Mrs Middleton. “Now we’ve won one again all these years later. I’m very proud.”

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It had been almost impossible to buy yellow ribbon in Doncaster – such had been the demand, she noted.

Back in the Market Place, Chris Froome, the headline attraction at this year’s race, was being welcomed on to a stage for a ceremonial signing-in.

“There are going to be tens of thousands of people out on the roads, and I’m going to be focused on that positive energy,” said Froome.

The riders perambulated through Doncaster town centre an hour before the start, and then rode out across St George’s Bridge, which was wet from an earlier cloudburst.

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They carried on at a gentle pace, through Bentley, before the race proper got underway as the riders entered Toll Bar, heading out of Doncaster through Askern and Campsall, with the riders hitting 40mph.

Locals lined the streets, with a number of schools taking a break from lessons. As the riders raced through Askern, some of the loudest cheers came from the youngsters at Moss Road School, assembled in front of St Peter’s Church.

Some of the biggest crowds of the day were in Pocklington, where, with about an hour of racing to go, only a narrow strip between the flanks of onlookers remained for the riders to navigate.

“It might be midweek, it might be a little rainy, but yet Yorkshire still turns out. Incredible,” tweeted the organisers.

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A sprint finish intensified as the cyclists honed in on their final destination, the town of Selby, at the end of day one.

The crowds here cheered as they were treated to a thrilling finale in front of the Grade I-listed Selby Abbey, where more than 900 years of history provided a monumental backdrop for Dutchman Jesper Asselman to only just cling on to his lead as the peloton bore upon him, mere metres behind, as the end of a soggy 182km slog.

Mutual respect

Testing conditions bred mutual respect between riders and spectators as thousands lined the streets to support the cyclists as the rain came down.

“Great atmosphere today in Howden,” tweeted Richard Atkinson, of Wakefield. “Superb effort from all the riders as the weather was dismal but failed to dampen the crowds!”

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Sarah Mannifield, from Doncaster, tweeted: “Well done to everyone from Doncaster who participated and made (our) county amazing - I for one (am) proud how everyone made a fantastic effort.”

And Denise Taylor posted: “Congratulations to all the competitors today... brilliant work in all weather conditions.”

The enthusiasm of the watching public was not lost on Jacob Tipper, who competed in the men’s race as part of the Ribble Pro Cycling team.

He tweeted: “The people of Yorkshire must be absolutely mental, grimmest day I’ve had on the bike, and every village was still absolutely rammed!”