Leeds is ready to welcome the world this week with a series of events and activities as the host city builds up to the Grand Départ of the Tour de France on Saturday.
Events will be happening across the city every day to celebrate the final countdown to the start of the world’s largest annual sporting event from The Headrow on Saturday morning.
Music and dance performances, theatre and cinema productions, art and museum exhibitions, food and drink festivals, bike races and shows, a pre-race parade featuring the Tour riders themselves, the Opening Ceremony Team Presentation and even a carnival will all be taking place in Leeds this week in honour of the legendary cycle race.
Details of 48 of the leading Tour activities can be seen at www.granddepartleeds.co.uk/events, including free lunchtime concerts taking place next to the startline on Victoria Gardens every day from noon-2pm.
Other events include the Bicyclism exhibition showcasing cycling in Leeds at the Leeds City Museum, a new theatre production celebrating the life of cyclist Beryl Burton OBE at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Tour photography at White Cloth Gallery, plus street entertainment involving a panda on a tricycle, hedge men and oversized seagulls.
The incredible sporting achievements of Beryl Burton will be the focus of a special element of Wednesday’s meeting of Leeds City Council at 1pm, as members of her family as well as Director of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme will be guests as the Morley cyclist is recommended to posthumously receive the city’s highest civic honour – Freedom of the City.
For those keen to see cyclists in action, the famous Otley Cycle Races from 6:15pm on Wednesday will feature many of Britain’s leading names, while the following night all 198 of the Tour de France riders will take part in a special riders’ pre-race parade through the city centre.
Starting just after 6pm on Thursday night, the riders will follow a route from the University of Leeds crossing Millennium Square as they make their way to the Leeds Arena for the spectacular Opening Ceremony Team Presentation of this year’s Tour.
In order to hold the parade, a number of Leeds streets will be subject to road closures and parking restrictions, with commuters advised to be aware rush-hour journeys out of the city centre are likely to be significantly affected. Where possible those in the city centre are advised and requested to remain and enjoy the event.
The city’s young people will show how they have been inspired by the Tour’s arrival on Tuesday, when pupils from more than 50 primary schools and Specialist Inclusive Learning Centres (SILCs) take part in the Leeds School Cycle Challenge at Temple Newsam Park.
The day will run from 9am, but the afternoon element will feature a special appearance by cycling royalty in the forms of Olympic champion Chris Boardman and five-times Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault to watch the young people in action.
All around the city, banners and floral displays in the Tour colours will welcome the race, including a yellow inflatable bike in City Square and the statue of the Black Prince being dressed in his own yellow jersey.
All of these events will build the excitement levels to Saturday morning, when the eyes of the world will be on Leeds for the start of the race itself. Events on the route will begin at approximately 8:30am when a group of cadet riders are followed by the Tour’s famous publicity ‘caravan’ made up of more than 180 vehicles handing out merchandise and souvenirs to the crowds to help further raise the excitement levels at the roadside.
At 11.10am the riders will leave the startline outside Leeds Art Gallery, beginning the ceremonial roll-out down The Headrow before joining the A61 and heading to Harewood House. The competitive element of the stage begins when the riders leave the Harewood Estate, with them then racing through the Yorkshire Dales before ending the stage in Harrogate.
Leader of Leeds City Council Coun Keith Wakefield said: “The waiting is almost over and we are just days away from hosting the biggest event in living memory in Leeds. We are incredibly proud to be hosting this amazing race and I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make it a success.
“We look forward to welcoming visitors from all over the globe and I know we will give them a great Leeds and Yorkshire welcome. There are lots of fantastic events and activities happening all over the city to get people ready for the main event on Saturday.
“We want everyone to join in the celebrations as the week progresses and then on Saturday we hope everyone enjoys what is arguably the greatest free sporting spectacle in the world. We’re ready so we can’t wait for it all to happen.”
Leeds City Council executive member for digital and creative technologies, culture and skills Councillor Lucinda Yeadon said:
“The excitement level over the next few days is going to start to reach fever-pitch as we get closer to Saturday. Thursday’s pre-race parade of the riders is going to be fantastic but we do need to make sure everybody is aware it is happening as it will impact on people getting home after work. We would strongly advise them to stay in the city centre and see the first glimpse of the Tour superstars in action.
“Then on Saturday morning if anyone is still not aware of what is happening we strongly advise people to read and follow all of the available advice to make the most of this historic day or how best to limit the interruption to their usual routine. Leeds is about to be showcased to the entire world and we can all part a play in making sure it is a success.”
For all of the latest Tour de France Grand Départ news, guidance, travel advice and transport information visit leeds.gov.uk/granddepartleeds.
For the latest news on Yorkshire’s Grand Départ, including an interactive route journey planner, visit letouryorkshire.com