Hundreds of fans turned out in Yorkshire on Saturday to witness the beginning of a much awaited race … or maybe just to catch a glimpse of their favourite royals. Because the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were at Harewood House, to send off the world’s best cyclists in the Grand Depart of the 101st Tour De France.
Their Royal Highnesses arrived at Harewood House in the morning, where they were greeted by members of the Earl of Harewood’s family, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Later, 198 cyclists from around the world rode up to the stately home, including Chris Froome, the defending champion of the Tour De France from Britain, where they greeted the young royals.
The Band of Corps of the Royal Engineers played the British and French national anthems, and the RAF’s Red Arrows flew over head, leaving a trail of red, white and blue – the national colours of both France and the UK. The cyclists then lined up at the starting line, the Duchess of Cambridge cut the ceremonial rope, and they were off!
As the cyclists sped away, Prince William was heard to say: “The only better view would have been on the back of one of those motorbikes.”
As the race progressed, William , Kate and Prince Harry paid an unexpected visit to West Tanfield, a small village along the cyclist’s route, where they waved and chatted to members of the crowds that had lined up to see them, with the Duke and Duchess even taking a short tour of the village. Afterwards, they traveled to Harrogate, the race’s finish point. The royals met with athletes supported by the charity Sports Aid, of which Kate is a patron.
In the first stage of the Tour, a sprint, the participants rode 190.5 km from Leeds to Harrogate. German racer Marcel Kittel was the winner of this stage, and was awarded the first yellow jersey of the event by the Duchess of Cambridge. William and Kate were also presented with a miniature gold jersey for Prince George, with ‘HRH George’ printed on one side.
The Tour De France will continue tomorrow in York, before moving to Cambridge and ending on The Mall near Buckingham Palace. The race will then go to France, where riders will pass through Ypres to mark 100 years since the First World War, and ride a total of 3646 km before ultimately finishing on the Champs Elysees on July 27th.
The young members of the Royal Family, who are avid sportspeople, seem to be particularly fond of cycling. At the 2012 Olympics, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were seen celebrating when Sir Chris Hoy finished in first place, and recently, the Duchess’ siblings, James and Pippa Middleton, completed the Race Across America cycling event for charity.