One of Cambridgeshire's oddest traditions gets under way this morning...
Tour De Yorkshire Crowds 'Best In The World'
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme called Yorkshire's crowds "the best in the world'' as the second ever Tour de Yorkshire provided a positive end to a bad week for British cycling.
While the national governing body was plunged into crisis by the resignation of technical director Shane Sutton over denied allegations of sexism and discrimination, and fingers were pointed over the handling of Simon Yates' positive drugs test, not even steady rain and the odd flurry of snow could dampen the enthusiasm of fans out on the roads of Yorkshire this weekend.
Organisers said more than two million people turned out to watch the race over three days, up from 1.5million for the inaugural edition last year, as popular French rider Thomas Voeckler took victory on stage three and overall for Direct Energie ahead of Team Sky's Nicholas Roche.
The event earned rave reviews from Prudhomme, head of Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) which organises the race along with Welcome To Yorkshire, as he again promised the Tour de France would soon return following the outstanding success of the 2014 Grand Depart.
Speaking through a translator, he said:
"I was very impressed by the crowd, first of all, and by the pride of the people of Yorkshire
"Voeckler's home region, the Vendee, has welcomed the Grand Depart four times, he's a rock star in the Vendee and he said the crowd here gives him goosebumps. Seeing the people happy together, in modern times, that is maybe the most important thing.''
This race is a direct legacy of the 2014 Grand Depart, which reset the standards for the Tour de France's launch when more than five million people lined the roads over two days.
Prudhomme is adamant the world's premier cycling race will return soon.
"It's not a question of if, but when.
"I think the Yorkshire crowds are the best in the world for cycling. There's a fervour, a warmth and a respect, things you find in different places, but in Yorkshire we have all three. For the crowds, a gold medal.''
The Tour de Yorkshire has seemed to live a charmed life since its inception, attracting crowds and coverage most other races of this size could never dream of.
Not everything went smoothly this year as the second day - intended to be the highlight as a women's race was held over the same 136.5km route from Otley to Doncaster that the men contested - suffered a virtual television blackout after a relay aircraft was grounded with technical difficulties.
Talking about the tv coverage, Prudhomme said:
"Of course, we were very disappointed, and very surprised as well,'' Prudhomme said.
"In (31 years) at bike races I have never seen this. It was disappointing also because it was the women's race, which was very important. Next year, for the second and third editions, it will work.''
Sir Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire and the driving force behind the race, promised that, despite that setback, the women's race would be back, bigger and better next year.
"What we saw yesterday was nailing this myth that women's cycling is not competitive enough, not compelling enough.
"We saw that consigned to the dustbin. We've got tremendous opportunities going forward.
"It's been a tough week for cycling, I hope this has been a morale boost.''
The first rail freight service from the UK to China has arrived.
The colourful and creative publicity caravan will return to the Tour de Yorkshire for a second year
Millions of spectators will line the route for the Tour De Yorkshire this weekend
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