Blazin' Saddles

Tour de Farce: Yellow sheep, where’s Wiggo?

Blazin' Saddles

With the sun shining down on an estimated 230,000 fans in Leeds and up to two million in total alongside the route in the Yorkshire Dales, the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France was a magnificent success for the host nation – until Mark Cavendish crashed out in the finale, that is.

Before the last-minute Harrogate heartbreak there was much to celebrate for Yorkshire and Great Britain – plus the odd quirky turn of events that may have passed you by. So let’s take a closer look at what happened on day one of the world’s greatest bike race…

1. Cav only has himself to blame

First there was Dan Martin in Ireland and now Mark Cavendish in England – what is it with local favourites and foreign Grand Departs this year? But while Martin hardly knew anything about his tumble in Belfast, Cavendish did at least seem to have control of his own destiny in the home town of his mother.

Most people reading the papers on Sunday will hear of Cavendish’s crash – and probable withdrawal from the race – and feel a sharp pang of sorrow for the Manxman. Yet look closely at the replays and you’ll see that Cavendish was really at fault for the incident that brought down him and Simon Gerrans.

With the final sprint in full swing, Cavendish leans into the Australian before appearing to, if not butt, then at least gently prod his head into the Orica-GreenEdge rider’s shoulder. It’s a terrible way for Cavendish to start – and perhaps finish – his race; but spare a thought for Gerrans, the innocent victim in the whole thing, who will have to sleep on his front for a few nights now owing to wholly unnecessary road rashed limbs.

2. Duchess of Cambridge stakes her claim for the green jersey

Kate Middleton joined her husband, the Duke of Cambridge, at the official start of the race at the stately home of Harewood House outside Leeds.

While Catherine really should have shown her Tour knowledge by donning yellow attire she did at least get into the spirit of things with a fetching green jacket – a far better effort than both Princes William and Harry, who chose to wear blue trousers (perhaps covering a pair of polka dot pants).

If only the brothers followed in the footsteps of Welcome to Yorkshire supremo Gary Verity, who went all out with a pair of mustard chinos. The Duchess certainly seemed to enjoy a long conversation with Alberto Contador – perhaps to ensure that the Spaniard didn’t try and break clear of the pack while the National Anthem was being performed…

3. Tinkoff-Saxo’s refreshing innovation

Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo team unveiled a new water-carrying garment in the Yorkshire Dales – which was greeted by unanimous virtual thumbs-up on Twitter.

Designed by the Italian company Sportful, there’s no denying that such an answer to bidon fetching is certainly more appealing than the usual tactic of stuffing bottles down your jersey. That said, what is essentially a pocketed string waistcoat must be rather a bore to put on – plus a capacity of five bottles can’t even quench the thirst of an entire team (unless you're GreenEdge at the back end of a three-week race in Italy).

Perhaps the best thing about the devise is that is certainly dulls down the fluorescent visual whiplash dealt out by Saxo’s new jerseys, which have had to ditch their usual classic yellow hue for something more in sync with Italian team Neri Sottoli - presumably owing to a clash with the colours of Chris Froome's likely maillot jaune.

4. Whatever Ireland can do, England can do, er, just as well

Pink sheep were very much the image that accompanied the Giro d’Italia’s Grande Partenza in Ireland back in May – and it’s no surprise that the wool of Yorkshire was going to turn yellow.

You get the sense that somewhere someone has made a lot of money selling – and applying – paint to farmers and their livestock. If only both the Tour’s and Giro’s sheep could get together and pull off some kind of woolly Battenberg visual picnic.

5. Is that Alpe d’Huez? No, it’s the Cote de Buttertubs

The crowds were absolutely magnificent as Jens Voigt powered towards the summit of the Buttertubs pass in the Yorkshire Dales. In scenes more reminiscent of a gruelling Alpine stage rather than an opening jolly in northern England, the peloton bottlenecked through the claustrophobic clamour of spectators – all played out under typically stormy British skies.

And finally, here's another… the question on everyone’s lips

As the British quota of riders looked to drop 25% in one fell-swoop following Mark Cavendish’s nasty spill it was left to one prankster to pose the question that has baffled many local fans. That he or she did so just outside the Team Sky bus that previously boasted the rangy presence of Sir Bradley Wiggins made the enquiry all the more pertinent.

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