THE SKIES may have been overcast and there was a chill in the spring air, but the warmth of the reaction that the Tour de Yorkshire received as it hit the road for a second day can be in no doubt.
The talk throughout the 10 months since the staging of the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in Yorkshire has been about carving out a legacy in the wake of the world’s largest annual sporting event.
And for those cynics who believed that the Tour’s arrival last July was a triumph of hype over substance, this was a day to prove them wrong.
The yellow bikes which adorned the shop fronts along Bishopthorpe Road in York last year were replaced with flags adorned with the White Rose, giving this a proud Yorkshire feel to a very continental celebration of cycling.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the country and abroad had travelled to line the route between Selby and the finishing line in York.
Spectators in York were treated to a full day of sporting entertainment, as the women’s race took in four laps of a 20km circuit through the city during Saturday morning.
The second day of the men’s race carved an arch from its starting point in Selby before crossing into East Yorkshire and heading into the Wolds and the landscapes made so famous by artist David Hockney.
Market Weighton was a riot of colour, with hundreds of people lining the streets. The town’s High Street was decked with yellow and blue bunting and balloons, as well as Union Jack and Yorkshire flags.
Irene Bennett, 61, of Goodmanham, added: “It’s really good for the East Riding. There is a brilliant turn-out. A lot of people have gone out with their decorations and got into the spirit of it all.”
The riders then headed towards Beverley via North Newbald where the elite cyclists passed close to the throngs of spectators as they snaked through the historic town’s tight streets.
The competitors, fresh from tackling the rolling Wolds, were spurred on by the huge crowd lining the route.
The breakaway pack of eight riders, six minutes ahead of the main peloton, were welcomed by a carnival atmosphere at Bainton, near Driffield, and met by the sounds of the Driffield Silver Band.
For spectators in Ryedale, it was their second chance in as many days to watch the Tour de Yorkshire as the riders entered Wharram-le-Street and North Grimston on their way to Norton.
There they were welcomed by thousands of spectators, many of whom had been enjoying the carnival atmosphere long before the arrival of the race.
Sporting a bright yellow T-shirt worn by all members of the council, Deputy Mayor Antony Croser said: “I have never seen this many people in Norton before. It has brought the community together and given a bit of pride to the place.”
The cavalcade of riders, their support teams and police escorts then made their way towards stage two’s finish in York, taking in Stamford Bridge and Murton along the way.
York’s Knavesmire - the scene of so many equine sporting spectacles throughout the centuries - saw the climax to the race.
The crowds were five-deep at the finish line, and among those who had travelled to see Dutch rider Moreno Hofland triumph in a thrilling sprint finish was Ian Clarke, his wife, Jayne, and their two children, Monty, four, and three-year-old Jenny.
Mr Clarke, who lives in Tuxford in Nottinghamshire but works as a sales director in Rotherham, is a keen cyclist who has competed for 40 years and has raced against Bradley Wiggins on the track.
The 51-year-old, who travelled with his family to Yorkshire last summer to watch the Grand Départ at Harewood House and Harrogate, said: “The crowds that have turned out show just how far cycling has come in the last in the last few years.
“I do believe that the Tour de Yorkshire could eventually rival the Tour of Britain. If you had come along five years ago to an event like this, there would only have been dyed-in-the-wool cycling fans here.
“But the crowds have been huge, and there are so many families out watching. It just shows how wide the appeal of cycling is now.”
TOUR DE YORKSHIRE FULL COVERAGE...
INTERACTIVE ROUTE MAPS...
DETAILED TIMINGS IN FULL..
• Stage 2
• Stage 3