Tour de France fans stun the stars as race hits Derbyshire

Stage Two of the Tour de France from York through Derbyshire and to Sheffield.
Stage Two of the Tour de France from York through Derbyshire and to Sheffield.

Over 2.5million awe-inspiring fans and dignified sportsmanship took the honours as the region hosted one of the greatest Grand Departs of the Tour de France in fine style.

Months of planning, dedication and camping ensured the roads between Stage Two’s York to Derbyshire and Sheffield stretch on Sunday, July 6, and Stage One’s Leeds to Harrogate stretch, on Saturday, July 5, were lined with cheering supporters as the 21 stage, three-week long race got underway in the UK.

And the riders deserved nothing less - despite a sport in need of a makeover given its shameful history of drug abuse - there could not have been a better two days to show that this 3,656km race boasts stars of great dignity, integrity and sportsmanship.

Humbling speeches from Saturday’s Stage One winner and first yellow jersey holder Marcel Kittel and a dignified apology from Brit Mark Cavendish for his part in an horrific crash which brought a tragic end to his Tour with a dislocated shoulder set a respectable tone.

Kittel said: “It’s something I will never forget in my life.” And Cavendish who had leaned into fellow competitor Simon Gerrans near the finish said: “I hope Simon is okay... He’s a good guy and I’m sorry.”

The Tour hit the Peak District National Park on Sunday around Holme Village and went over Holme Moss and to the Woodhead Pass and out through Langsett and Bradfield before finishing in Sheffield at the Motorpoint Arena.

Scenes along UK hill climbs lined with adoring fans were more reminiscent of climactic stages usually witnessed at the end of the race in the Alps and Pyrenees.

Riders all expressed their admiration for the fans and a great respect for the first two stages of a race that usually unfolds in a much steadier fashion.

A breakaway of six riders got away early during Stage Two on the way towards Derbyshire but without too much concern for the peloton.

Nine tough hill climbs not least Holme Moss along Derbyshire’s border and Jenkin Road, in Wincobank, Sheffield, blew the field apart as the main contenders including British Sky rider and defending champion Chris Froome took to the front.

Italian Astana rider Vincenzo Nibali eventually won Stage Two after a breakaway from the main pack which was splintered by the climbs. Greg Van Avermaet, of BMC, came second and Michael Kwiatkowski, of Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, came third.

Froome consolidated his position as one of the favourites to win the overall race with a comfortable 19th placing ensuring fifth position in the overall classification after two stages with 19 more to go.

Nibali is currently in yellow as the overall leader after taking the jersey from Stage One sprint star Kittel who finished well down the field on the second stage.

The Tour continues on British soil today, Monday, July 7, with Stage Three from Cambridge to London before crossing the channel to France and eventually wending its way to Paris for the final stage on July 27.