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VIDEO: Tour de Sheffield special report

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The Tour de France got a grand South Yorkshire welcome as 1.5 million people lined the streets - making it up to five million over the weekend, believe delighted bosses.

And as Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali won the leader’s yellow jersey organisers praised fans for making it a day in Sheffield that nobody will ever forget.

Millions more tuned in on TV sets around the world to see the riders fly up the now infamous Jenkin Road hill and finish Stage Two out side Sheffield Motorpoint Arena,

Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France, declared the opening to the 2014 race “the grandest Grand Depart ever”.

The steel city did its self proud with record breaking crowds, said Gary Verity, the man acknowledged with bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire.

VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our specvial report from the finish line.

MORE VIDEO: Fans raced for Le Tour finish in Sheffield - and celebrated at Don Valley Bowl.

SLIDESHOW: Tour de France comes to South Yorkshire - CLICK HERE.

In an exclusive interview with The Star, Welcome Yorkshire’s Chief Executive Mr Verity said: “It’s awesome, isn’t it.

“Everyone said would the people of Sheffield really want the Tour de France? Would they embrace it? You’ve had your answer today. Of course they did.

“They’ve come out in their hundreds of thousands. It has been the most incredible day. People will remember this day for the rest of their lives.

“There were people all around the world who had never heard of Yorkshire or certainly didn’t know how beautiful it was. They do now.

“The riders love Yorkshire, they want to come back next year and ride a new race. The organisers have never seen anything as incredible.

“Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France said to me, he thinks there could have been up to five million people watching the race over the past two days. That’s incredible.”

Mr Yorkshire, Barnsley’s own cricket test umpire legend Dickie Bird, said: “They say it’s put Yorkshire on the map, but Yorkshire has always been on the map for me.

“It’s the greatest county in the world - wonderful people. And you see what they’ve done today - they have turned out in their thousands and thousands. It’s just tremendous.”

Mr Prudhomme declared the opening to the 2014 race “the grandest Grand Depart ever”.

He described the huge crowds seen for the second day out on the route were “unbelievable, incredible, amazing, astonishing”.

And he said the five-times Tour champion and fellow Frenchman Bernard Hinault had told him he had never seen crowds like it in 40 years of cycling.

Many of the most memorable scenes on the first two days of the Tour were on the climbs over Yorkshire’s moors.

But enthusiasts hoping for similar ascents on day three will be disappointed as stage three ends in the centre of London on Monday, July 7.

It takes in towns like Chelmsford and Saffron Walden as well as London’s Olympic Park, is extremely flat, with no official climbs.

The highest point on the route is at Epping Forest, at 108m.

A flat race should mean a good day for the sprinters but British cycling fans will have to be content to watch without sprint specialist Mark Cavendish, who bowed out of the race in a spectacular crash in Harrogate on Saturday.

Monday’s race will finish on The Mall, after a closing section which will pass many of London famous landmarks and a last few kilometres along the River Thames before passing the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

The finish line is where the bike races ended in the London 2012 Olympics.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “As the world’s largest annual sporting event prepares to make a triumphant return to our city, London is geared up and raring to go.

“After months of meticulous planning we are set to deliver a sporting spectacle that will be beamed to an audience of billions across the globe, showcasing some of our finest landmarks and most picturesque views.

“I wish every rider taking part in this gruelling endeavour the best of luck - I’m sure they will no doubt inspire even more Londoners to take to two wheels. Chapeau!”

The third stage of the Tour will take the riders from Cambridge to the capital via parts of Essex.

The 155km stage follows a weekend which saw at least 2.5 million people watch the teams battle through Yorkshire’s city streets and country lanes.


 
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