Looking back at 2014: Entertaining the world’s biggest cycle race

They go through this fast! Riders race through Hebden Bridge during Le Tour. Photo by Lauren Wafer-Kiddle
They go through this fast! Riders race through Hebden Bridge during Le Tour. Photo by Lauren Wafer-Kiddle

A long time in the planning - and long-awaited - this was the year that the Tour De France came to Yorkshire, and to the Calder Valley.

Reputedly the world’s biggest free-to-air sport other than the World Cup was visiting the county for the first time and up and down the

Calder Valley plans were made and events organised to try and maximise the benefit to the area and the local economy of one of the world’s biggest sporting events appearing on the doorstep.

Long before the weekend of July 5 and 6, preparations were made to celebrate the event, with Mytholomroyd Gala and Todmorden Carnival tapping into the theme as the big day approached , the former becoming a hub and staging two days of entertainment including the traditional event.

Welcome To Yorkshire, which co-ordinated many events as Le Grand Depart came to the county, taking in York, Harrogate, Leeds andSheffield, organised 100 days of entertainment around the county.

The route itself took in Pecket Well, Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Cragg Vale on day two of Le Tour’s time in the county, the latter being the longest continuous climb in the country, and a real test for the riders.

In the event local councils, local artists and local organisations greeted the challenge with enthusiasm, exhibited in many different ways.

From small scale works of art in many studios to some large scale art-in-the-open, Le Tour became part of the fabric of life in 2014.

Several things stood out.

Villagers in Cragg Vale got themselves and their village into the Guinness World Records for the longest amount of bunting, which they created and hung the length of Cragg Road for the big race. There was a 24-hour cyclists’”continuous passes of the mountain”, with the Robin Hood pub as a headquarters, and a giant choir sing the same weekend - one to remember.

Even Todmorden Town Hall became a Grade I listed and ornate dormitary for members of cycling clubs who had booked to be able to billet there.

In Todmorden, the Tour De Tod committee which worked hard to promote the race, co-ordinate hospitality and arrange events linked up with

the Handmade Parade team for one of the “100 Days” events, the Fantastical Cycle Parade, which ran to great effect in the town centre.

The weather could not have been better on race weekend itself, with viewing hubs at Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd, and tens of thousands of people duly descended on the area in bright sunshine.

Fans daubed the named of their favourite riders in the road, and the stage was Italian Vincenzo Nibali - who went on to win the race as a whole.

One touching tribute was paid to Dougie Mansfield, owner of the cycle shop in Mythoolmroyd for 30 years, who died just weeks before the event arrived in the Calder Valley. Dougie knew his time was limited but had supported the world’s biggest cycling event coming right past his shop’s doorstep.

Todmorden, which had warmed up the previous evening with a “Proms In The Park” event at Centre Vale the previous evening, was busy enough and Mytholmroyd did well on the Saturday gala but felt its thunder had been stolen by the Hebden Bridge hub on the Sunday.

Helcopter coverage on television certainly helped show the area at its best, and the two days in Yorkshire which had put the spotlight on the region were the best of the Tour’s time in the UK.

In terms of the economy, not all local businesses felt they had benefitted but some did and the hope is that there will be a long term benefit to the area. It was, after all, a once-in-a-lifetime event and the sort of promotion you normally can’t buy.