Huddersfield threw open her arms to the Tour de France and embraced it with a big smacker on each cheek.
Tens of thousands of local residents turned out to celebrate the biggest annual sporting event on earth – and made it even bigger. Le Grand Depart will never be the same again - nobody has ever done it with such style and on such a scale as Yorkshire
Crowds lined the streets on Alpine Bend on the A616 at Magdale, Honley. The Haigh and Dunkersley families from Lepton pitched their camping chairs at the side of the road at 8.30am and waited…and waited. “It was my husband who made us get here so soon!” said Tracy Haigh. “We have been cheering all the cyclists coming through all morning – it has been fab.”
The early birds were kept entertained by hundreds of amateur cyclists from toddlers to pensioners who were all having a crack at Stage 2. One cyclist sported a bowler hat, while another was dressed as a sheep.
The pavements filled up, the sun came out and the carnival atmosphere got into full swing.
At times the Cote de Holme Moss looked more like the Cote d’Azur, with bare-chested revellers popping champagne corks and picnics and sunbathers everywhere.
Nobody wanted to miss this once-in-a-lifetime event. Babies sporting yellow sunhats were wheeled in prams to the side of the road. Dads joggled toddlers up and down on their shoulders - and even the family pets were brought along, with several pooches dressed in polka dot neckerchiefs.
Paul Dinnings, who teaches at St John’s primary school, Golcar, said: “The Tour coming to Huddersfield is just brilliant; it is a real party atmosphere. We are very proud it is in Yorkshire and want it to come back next year!”
The crowds continued to build throughout the morning in Honley. The most popular spot was on the bend where it was several spectators deep.
Around 1pm great cheers echoed around as the police motorcycle cavalcade came through -with the officers thoroughly enjoying their new-found mass popularity as they waved and blew whistles. They were followed by their French counterparts, the gendarmes.
Announcements came over the megaphones of the French support vehicles and the Yorkshire folk cocked their heads and strained their ears to try and make sense of the heavily accented English.
One woman shouted: “They are at Ainley Top!” and everyone looked expectantly towards the bend.
At 2.45 it happened. The volume reached a crescendo as a blur of tightly-packed cyclists streaked past to the roar of the crowd. The English flags, optimistically bought for our short-lived effort in the World Cup, came into their own and frantically waved in the glorious English sunshine.
A couple of minutes later, it was all over.
They were gone and in the silence which followed, a little boy shouted to a little girl at the back of the crowd: “You’ve missed it, Katie,” much to the amusement of the crowd.
Residents turned out in their droves to watch the Tour de France.
Paul Coldwell threw himself wholeheartedly into the spirit of the event. His home at Netherton was decorated in Tour de France colours and sported a yellow bicycle.
After a French breakfast with friends, he dressed as a Frenchman and called himself Pierre leBlot for the day. He said: “We have embraced the whole shebang, I wish we could do this every Sunday, it is absolutely fantastic. Tres bon!”
Kate Marsden, 10, made a special Tour de France wood and metal sign. She said: “It is very exciting. I like finding out about the Tour at France at school and now seeing all the crowds.”
A group of Greenhead College students dressed in their finest clothes and headed for Honley. Edward Smith said: “The atmosphere is electric. I’m a cyclist and this a real opportunity for Yorkshire to show off its natural beauty. It is really good for us.”
Young Alfie Haigh, eight, from Lepton, waited over six hours to see the cyclists, entertaining himself with his Ipad during the quiet moments. He said: “I play out on my bike, but these cyclists are really quick compared to me.”
"Stunning. Exciting. Awesome. Absolutely amazing" - Huddersfield's verdict on the Tour De France 2014
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