Tour of Yorkshire adopts a touch of the exotic

ONE of English comedian Harry Enfield's best comic characters was the stereotypical Yorkshireman George "Integrity" Whitebread who, in his own words, used to "Say what I like and like what I bloody-well say."

When a female colleague asked the straight-talking sexist to show some sophistication, he replied: "Sophistication? Sophistication? Don't talk to me about sophistication luv, I've been to Leeds."

As of the weekend, so has the Tour de France, and unlike an encounter with Whitebread, it appears to have been a thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Having once stayed in Harrogate while working in Leeds, a Tour de France stage from Leeds to Harrogate with Tassie's finest Richie Porte set to play an integral role was always going to be too good to miss - even with Wimbledon semi-finals and World Cup quarter-finals rivalling it for nocturnal attention.

And the 190-kilometre stage (or 118 miles in English money) did not disappoint.

Yorkshire didn't simply embrace the Tour as offer it a kiss of the French variety.

The estimated crowd of 2.5 million which lined the route through the Dales represented half the county's population.

From the maillot jeune atop York Minster to the flock of sheep spray painted yellow, for two days Le Tour became T' Tour.

Traditional locations adopted exotic tags with Buttertubs Pass becoming the Cote de Buttertubs and Otley's pubs changing their names from The Black Horse and The White Swan to Le Cheval Noir and Le Cygne Blanc.

The peloton rides up Haworth High Street during stage 2 of Le Tour de France in Haworth, England. Picture: Getty Images

The peloton rides up Haworth High Street during stage 2 of Le Tour de France in Haworth, England. Picture: Getty Images

Delighted race director Christian Prudhomme even suggested "The Buttertubs climb can now call itself the Alpe d'Huez of Yorkshire."

And like the famous Alpine ascent, Yorkshire's stages even offered their own Wuthering Heights by tackling the picturesque streets of Haworth, birthplace of author Emily Bronte and her equally talented literary sisters Charlotte and Anne.

Announcements were made in French, free packets of Yorkshire Tea were thrown to the crowd and a Lancaster Bomber and Spitfire flew overhead, perhaps helping to motivate the eventual stage winner Marcel Kittel, of Germany.

And as it turned out Porte wasn't the sole Tasmanian connection with the route passing by Silsden, home town of Riverside Olympic centre forward Chris Wademan.

Meanwhile, SBS's coverage was its usual high standard, even if Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's incredibly informative commentary did stretch to telling viewers which cities the Leeds to Liverpool Canal connects.

Wimbledon may have wrapped up with a five-set epic in the early hours of yesterday morning, but the Tour de France and World Cup continue to overlap for another week with the Commonwealth Games starting on July 23.

And the cyclists think ascending Alpe d'Huez is tough.

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