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French delight in Britain’s Tour de France enthusiasm

© AFP (Marcel Kittel)

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-07-08

The Tour de France has come home from its English expedition, an opening trip that has impressed the French no end.

Beyond the discovery that there is a rather lovely part of England called Le Yorkshire, the French press was aglow Tuesday with Britain’s unbridled enthusiasm for the stereotypically Gallic event. The Entente is very Cordiale indeed.

France’s biggest-selling daily L’Equipe called the opening a “three-day party” for England. “The home of Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins has shown that the country has been well and truly bitten by the bike bug,” the sports paper enthused.

“The English have taken to the Tour de France with the passion and recklessness of a first love,” wrote Libération’s sports correspondent, touched by everything he has seen “outre-Manche” (across the Channel).

“Infected by the enthusiasm, even the British motorcycle police high-fived spectators who held out their hands,” he added – not something France’s hard-nosed flics (cops) are likely to imitate.

“It’s all rather sweet, as is the British tendency to find the most improbable vantage points to watch the race, or stand perilously close on slopes where the riders are passing at 80kmh, to shout their encouragements.”

The entire route, from Leeds in Yorkshire, through Cambridge, Essex villages and into London, was thronged by enthusiastic crowds. Organisers estimate that 2.5 million turned out for the spectacle.

Dangerous dogs and selfish selfies

And the cyclists – mostly – loved it. French rider Rudy Molard told France Info radio: “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It’s only my second Tour, but last year I didn’t see as many people line the roads on any of the stages.

“It gave me goose bumps, it was incredible, unforgettable. I was sceptical about the Tour starting in England, but I have no regrets. Thank you!”

Not everything went smoothly. Both Libération and France Info’s reporters were somewhat astonished – and alarmed – by the number of “fairly loosely controlled” dogs that joined their owners on the roadside, while commenting on the “undisciplined” practice of taking “selfies” in the middle of the road as the riders raced past.

The riders weren’t too impressed either. American competitor Tejay van Garderen tweeted: “Standing in the middle of the road with your back turned while 200 cyclists come at you, just to take a selfie. #think.”

“A dangerous mix of vanity and stupidity,” he added in a second Tweet.

The riders were back on French soil Tuesday, and on Wednesday they head into Belgium in a stage that will take them 155km from Ypres in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, eastern France.

But as France Info concluded on Tuesday: “There may be fewer spectators on the roads [than in England] but these fans are used to bike races, and they are just as passionate.”

Date created : 2014-07-08

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