Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme has visited Ripon’s One Eyed Rat pub to sample some of Yorkshire’s finest ales just a day after the city learned the world’s greatest cycling race would be passing through in 2014. Gazette reporter LAURA CONNOR popped down for a pint to find out why our part of Yorkshire has been given the privilege of hosting the Grand Depart.
A pint of Yorkshire ale in Ripon’s bustling One Eyed Rat was certainly a welcome relief for Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme and tourist chief Gary Verity.
The celebratory pair were capping off their whistlestop tour of the county in the historic pub – but if they thought they could put their feet up in front of the fire after a hard day’s work in sub-zero temperatures, they thought wrong.
Gary and Christian could barely move for local people eager to congratulate them, thank them and shake their hands.
So when Christian was asked why Yorkshire was chosen as the venue for the legendary race, the proof was in the pudding.
“Everyone has been very warm and welcome. There is a special atmosphere here in Ripon and I am very pleased to see the sense of friendship in Yorkshire,” he said.
“It’s just a wonderful atmosphere. I can feel the passion and commitment behind everything and cycling is developing fast in Yorkshire. It’s not just about the champions – it’s about the normal people.”
Gary – the chief executive of tourist body Welcome to Yorkshire – agreed, saying the values of the Tour reflect the personalities of Yorkshire people.
“The Tour can bring Yorkshire the values of the race – hard work, dedication, passion and the will to never give up. These are the same as the values of the people of Yorkshire,” he said.
“It is one of the ultimate sporting events on the planet. It’s bringing millions of people together and showcasing the area.
“It has given Yorkshire a real buzz. There are plenty of people around the world who do not know Yorkshire, but next summer everyone will know where Yorkshire is.”
Gary added that Yorkshire’s breadth of scenery and beauty spots made it the perfect place to host the event.
“We have tremendous variations of scenery, hills and undulations. We have beautiful market towns and beautiful villages. We have all of the ingredients and the one thing that we have is the Yorkshire people.”
Few places could have showcased the picturesque qualities of the county better than Ripon Cathedral, where the pair attended a short ceremony with the Dean, the Rev Keith Jukes, before popping into the Allhallowgate pub.
After jostling through the jubilant crowd in the pub to find a seat, Gary and Christian found themselves having a natter with West Tanfield couple Stephen and Ann Anderson.
“It’s going to be a fantastic boost for everyone, not to mention the local economy,” said Stephen as he shared a pint with Christian.
His wife Ann, a practice nurse, added: “I will be watching, absolutely. I think it’s going to be marvellous – and I’m not even a cyclist!”
If local people without an interest in cycling can be so thrilled, for keen cyclists in the city the event is a dream come true.
The excitement on the faces of an ever-growing crowd of cycling enthusiasts gathering round Christian’s table was unmissable.
Pete Swanborough, 50, said he has been wanting to watch the Tour since he was a young boy and he hopes to pitch a tent up on a hill in the district to get the best view possible.
And Neil Dunkley, who owns Moonglu bike shop on Blossomgate in Ripon, said he has been wanting to see the Tour for 25 years.
“The fact it is coming to Yorkshire is just overwhelming,” he said.
“The Tour will never come through Ripon again in my lifetime.”
Neil, 36, now plans to rally customers and friends to join him on a cycle ride around the route of the first stage.
“The route they have chosen is absolutely stunning for a first stage. It’s a great time to be a bike shop and it will certainly boost business, there is no doubt about that. I hope it will boost everyone’s business in Ripon.”
Nodding in agreement as Neil spoke about the potential benefits to business was city Coun Bernard Bateman, who emphasised how the Tour will not just lift people’s spirits, but the city’s economy.
“It’s great for the council and for tourism in Ripon. It’s going to be absolutely brilliant,” he said.
Coun Bateman said Ripon Ring – the tourism team he heads up as chairman – will also be very pleased by the Tour’s potential opportunities.
“It will be a great boost to the city and all the surrounding areas. Most people will be watching it, I should imagine. It will be quite the event.”
Joining Christian later at his table was Leeds City Council’s chief executive Tom Riordan, who has high hopes local people will flock to see the event pass through their home towns and villages.
Fresh from a huge turnout at the Leeds town hall launch party celebration the previous evening, Tom said: “Two thousand people came to watch in the snow and the cold just to see the route being announced, so imagine what it will be like in July 2014 at the first event.”
l Leeds hosts the Grand Depart on July 5, with the first stage of 118 miles taking in Masham, West Tanfield, North Stainley, Ripon and South Stainley before finishing in Harrogate.
Day two of the 101st Tour will set off from York before finishing on a hilly terrain towards Sheffield.