“Merci Yorkshire, merci beaucoup”, were the words of Tour chief Christian Prudhomme as a grand crowd flocked to Leeds for the launch of the Grand Depart.

Almost 10,000 cycling fans were joined by the world’s media for the traditional parade of riders ahead of Saturday’s opening stage.

All 198 cyclists from this year’s 22 teams pedalled into Leeds Arena for the opening ceremony to the 101st race.

Organisers saved the best for last as Britain’s Team Sky and reigning Tour champion Chris Froome were last onto the stage for their public interview.

British sprint hotshot Mark Cavendish, the holder of the most Tour stage victories, enjoyed rapturous applause while the appearance of Mirfield’s own cycling legend Brian Robinson also raised the roof.

Tour director Mr Prudhomme, praised the Yorkshire welcome and said: “I am thrilled and I am impressed with what you have done ... and I haven’t even seen everything for sure.”

Embrace rock the Leeds Arena
Embrace rock the Leeds Arena
 

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The values of the people of Yorkshire are the same as the true champions of cycling; hard work, perseverance, determination, passion, enthusiasm, pride and a wilful refusal to take no for an answer.”

The spectacle, produced by one of the men responsible for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, featured a headline set by Brighouse rock band Embrace while Bradford’s Kimberley Walsh sang the official Tour song, The Road, with fellow Tyke Alistair Griffin.

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