WATCH as the world’s elite cyclists race past Ripon’s Clock Tower junction.
Thousands of residents and visitors alike gathered for a day of festivities and to watch the world’s biggest cycle race make its way around the city during Stage One of the Grand Départ on Saturday.
The ambition of the current Mayor of Ripon is to market his city as “The Meeting Place of Choice” and Coun Mick Stanley said the success and size of the festivities Ripon has pulled-off prove it is deserving of the branding.
“What an absolutely fabulous day for this marvellous sporting occasion that we have got in Ripon,” said the Mayor.
“We have visitors from all across the world. They have come to Ripon as a meeting place of choice because of all the wonderful attractions we have got and the fact that you can stand or sit in the square, look at the big screen and see all the events, and are within a 10-minute walk of the race route.”
Ripon had the privileged status of being just one of 20 official le Tour Spectator Hubs in God’s own county with festivities split across two sites.
The locations were the central market square, described by writer Daniel Defoe in the 18th century as “the finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England”, and – on the eastern edge of the city – Ripon Racecourse, known as “Yorkshire’s Garden Racecourse” for its outstanding, well-kept grounds.
Early morning rain had stopped by the time the Mayor officially declared the Spectator Hub open just after 9am and by late morning glorious sunshine poured down as people on a packed square enjoyed following all the action of Stage One on the big screen and browsing around the continental market, which also featured children’s entertainment.
By early afternoon, most people had left the hub sites to line the race route to greet the arrival of the Tour caravan at around 2.10pm and the riders, who arrived just before 4.20pm, after making their way from the Dales through Masham, West Tanfield and North Stainley.
The crowds thronged the pavements and roadsides as the riders pedalled their way towards Ripon’s iconic clock tower.
While the main talk after the race was Mark Cavendish’s spectacular crash in the closing metres of the stage finish in Harrogate, the race was not without incident in Ripon with at least two riders coming off their bikes as they tried to negotiate the sharp corner by the clock commemorating Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897.
As the peloton departed the “City of Ancient Charms” and headed south towards Harrogate,
cycle fans rushed back to the market place just in time for the thousands gathered to see on the big screen Mark Cavendish’s hopes of winning the first stage of the Grand Départ cruelly dashed just 13 miles away in the spa town.
But post-race, despite the disappointment of the Manx Missile failing to claim yellow, the late afternoon and early evening brought no sense of anticlimax as revellers enjoyed more festivities, including music, films and entertainment at the hub sites which entertained the crowds well into the night.