Tour De France Kicks Off Among Huge Crowds, But Riders Wants Fans To Be Wary
Massive crowds "greeted the cream of world cycling in the Yorkshire countryside on Saturday as the Tour de France began in style but some riders said their enthusiasm was dangerous," according to Martyn Herman of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The 190.5-km stage from Leeds to Harrogate "was hailed a huge success by race director Christian Prudhomme as an estimated 2 million people took to the hills and lanes." However, the proximity of the masses, many wearing cycling outfits and carrying flags, "caused problems with the peloton coming to a standstill at one point during the day's first ascent up the Cote de Cray." Swiss cyclist Fabian Cancellara said, "It's great to see such huge crowds but the police should do something about it tomorrow because our health is in danger." Germany's Marcel Kittel, who sprinted to victory to take the leader's yellow jersey, said that "fans needed to be wary." He said, "Some spectators were in the middle of the road taking pictures." Slovakian runner-up Peter Sagan added, "The public at the Tour de France is incredible but also dangerous. I wish people paid more attention." Despite the concerns "there were no crowd-related accidents and the biggest crash occurred when British hero Mark Cavendish was involved in a horror smash on the sprint to the line" (SMH, 7/6). The BBC reported defending Tour winner Chris Froome "asked fans to give riders more space." Froome said that "riders needed 'a bit of space' so they did not have to stop to file between lines of spectators." His fellow Briton Geraint Thomas said, "It was great to race on home roads, but it is quite dangerous at times" (BBC, 7/5). The BBC also reported Edinburgh "aims to renew its bid to host the Tour de France's Grand Depart before the end of this decade." Edinburgh City Council member Steve Cardownie said, "We are looking at perhaps forming a bid with Event Scotland for either 2018 or 2019." Yorkshire is expected to enjoy the lion's share of at least £100M ($172M) "in economic benefits from the Grand Depart, while the television audience is estimated at three-and-a-half billion" (BBC, 7/5).