YORKSHIRE provided the Tour de France with the “grandest” Grand Départ in its 101 year history, according to the director, who estimated as many as five million people might have lined the route.
At the end of the second stage of the race, a day that saw riders pass through Addingham, Silsden, Keighley, Haworth and Oxenhope, Christian Prudhomme said Yorkshire had “raised the bar” for future hosts of the world’s biggest annual sporting event.
Crowds flocked to both town centre streets and rural country roads yesterday to watch the race, and the crowds were so big organisers say they will have to revise initial “conservative” estimates that the event would bring £100 million to the region.
Although early initial figures by police estimate at least 2.5 million spectators, Mr Prudhomme said there could have been as many as five million.
Starting in York, the second leg soon returned to the Bradford district, where spectators lined the entire 124-mile (201km) route to Sheffield.
Although the forecast was not as promising as on Saturday, the weather held out for the duration of the race.
Crowds in Addingham gave a big Yorkshire welcome to the race for the second time in two days before Silsden enjoyed what must have been the town’s biggest moment as the riders passed through.
The leading group of about seven cyclists arrived in Keighley shortly after 1pm, with the main group about a minute behind. The town’s diverse population turned out in their droves to cheer the riders, all united as proud Yorkshire folk.
After passing through Haworth and Oxenhope, the race headed towards its Sheffield finish, but its impact will likely be felt for a long time to come.
Bradford Council leader, Councillor David Green, said last night: “I think the Tour de France has been an absolutely stunning spectacle and a real boost for Yorkshire.
“We have to give our thanks and praise to all those involved in helping to organise it, particularly the volunteers, tour makers and public sector workers who have made it work so well.
“The real winner here has been Yorkshire.”
Addressing the people of Yorkshire after the race, Mr Prudhomme said: “Bernard Hinault (five time TDF winner) said to me it is the first time in 40 years on a bike that he has seen crowds like we saw this weekend.
“What you did was good for Yorkshire, for sure, but what you did was also good for the Tour.
"When you said you would deliver the grandest Grand Départ it was the truth, you have raised the bar for all future hosts of the Tour de France.”
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “When we first bid for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, I promised that we would deliver the grandest Grand Départ the Tour has ever seen.
“It gives me immense pride to say that we made good on that promise, and the success of this spectacular event will welcome an incredible new chapter in the history of Yorkshire.
“Millions of people both right here at the roadside and in homes all over the world have seen the magnificence of Yorkshire, and our beautiful county has done itself proud once again.”