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Tour de France team presentation breaks new ground

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Mark Cavendish with his family

Mark Cavendish with his family
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The team presentation gets underway

The team presentation gets underway
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Chris Froome waving to the crowd

Chris Froome waving to the crowd
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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A fan gets a photo of Chris Froome

A fan gets a photo of Chris Froome
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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BMC's turn at the team presentation

BMC's turn at the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Belkin on stage

Belkin on stage
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Movistar presented to the crowd

Movistar presented to the crowd
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Chris Froome during the team presentation

Chris Froome during the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Garmin Sharp at the team presentation

Garmin Sharp at the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The band plays on while the teams are presented

The band plays on while the teams are presented
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Cofidis on stage

Cofidis on stage
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Michael Schär gets a photo of the crowd

Michael Schär gets a photo of the crowd
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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A fluro Alberto Contador gives the crowd a wave

A fluro Alberto Contador gives the crowd a wave
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Fränk Schleck has a laugh on stage

Fränk Schleck has a laugh on stage
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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World Champion Rui Costa on stage

World Champion Rui Costa on stage
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Kittel takes a quick selfie

Kittel takes a quick selfie
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Marcel Kittel beats the fans to a selfie

Marcel Kittel beats the fans to a selfie
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Peter Sagan rides into the team presentation on a custom painted bike

Peter Sagan rides into the team presentation on a custom painted bike
(Image credit: ASO/X.Bourgois)
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Tinkoff-Saxo show off its new kit

Tinkoff-Saxo show off its new kit
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Vincenzo Nibali in his Italian national jersey

Vincenzo Nibali in his Italian national jersey
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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NetApp-Endura also makes it Tour debut this year

NetApp-Endura also makes it Tour debut this year
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Orica-GreenEdge presented to the crowd

Orica-GreenEdge presented to the crowd
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tinkoff-Saxo at the team presentation

Tinkoff-Saxo at the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Trek Factory Racing presented to the crowd

Trek Factory Racing presented to the crowd
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lampre-Merida's turn at the team presentation

Lampre-Merida's turn at the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Omega Pharma-Quick Step presented to the crowd

Omega Pharma-Quick Step presented to the crowd
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Mark Cavendish giving a wave to fans

Mark Cavendish giving a wave to fans
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Europcar at the team presentation

Europcar at the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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IAM Cycling makes its Tour de France debut

IAM Cycling makes its Tour de France debut
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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BMC riders at the team presentation

BMC riders at the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lotto Belisol on stage

Lotto Belisol on stage
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Garmin Sharp and Sebastian Langeveld in his new Dutch national champion jersey

Garmin Sharp and Sebastian Langeveld in his new Dutch national champion jersey
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Bretagne-Séché Environnement on stage

Bretagne-Séché Environnement on stage
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Katusha on stage

Katusha on stage
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Marcel Kittel and Giant Shimano on stage

Marcel Kittel and Giant Shimano on stage
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Peter Sagan and Cannondale presented to the crowd

Peter Sagan and Cannondale presented to the crowd
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Nibali and his Astana teammates during the team presentation

Nibali and his Astana teammates during the team presentation
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

Given that the other cultural event making the headlines in the UK at the moment is the Monty Python reunion in London, Yorkshire’s Tour de France team presentation on Thursday evening at the First Direct Arena in Leeds could fittingly have been entitled, And Now for Something Completely Different…

From the riders parading through the crowd-packed streets between Leeds University and the arena, to the glitzy setting within the modernistic venue, almost everything about this team presentation was groundbreaking. In addition to the traditional parade of 22 teams on stage, the show featured some of the highlights from the Grand Départ’s cultural festival, including performances by bike-borne dancers Ghost Peloton in their magical LED light suits, a blast of Bizet’s Carmen from Opera North, and a rousing finale from Brighouse rock band Embrace.

Each of the 22 teams received a huge ovation when they were presented on stage, although the roar that greeted the arrival of Chris Froome and his Sky team-mates left no doubt about who most of the 9,000-strong audience were backing. Froome looked slightly overwhelmed by the reception, admitting it made it extra special to be starting the defence of his title on home ground.

The arrival of Mark Cavendish and Omega Pharma-QuickStep also generated a huge reaction. With his wife, daughter and other family members looking on in the audience, Cavendish paid fulsome tribute to Yorkshire, adding that he expects the reception over the coming weekend to be way beyond most people’s expectations. “So excited by the @letour presentation turnout tonight! The @TdF_FanPark is going to be buzzing if the atmosphere will be like that!” Cavendish tweeted after the presentation.

Many of Cavendish’s peers also praised the Tour’s curtain-raiser, Trek’s Gregory Rast admitting he “felt like Justin Bieber on the stage!” Giant-Shimano’s John Degenkolb tweeted: “A big THANK YOU out to every single girl/boy/lady/gentleman at the @letour @letouryorkshire teampresentation!!can't wait till sat.”

After the roars as Sky exited, there was just as much clamour when Tour director Christian Prudhomme and Welcome To Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity strode onto the stage, like a budding presidential partnership. The Tour’s 198 riders apart, the pair are the most popular men in the county just now.

Prudhomme explained how two years ago Verity had promised him the grandest Grand Départ ever, and had fully delivered on that. When Verity took to the podium, the audience gave him a standing ovation, leaving the W2Y chief exec on the verge of tears.

He praised the team that has work with him over the past three years and, of course, the people of Yorkshire for buying into the Tour with such enthusiasm. “In the future, the Grand Départ will be seen a pivotal moment in Yorkshire’s history,” he said.

It would be easy to dismiss this as overblown rhetoric. After all, the Tour is only a bike race. However, not only has the Grand Départ raised the worldwide profile of Yorkshire, but it has only enthused its inhabitants in the same way that the 2012 Olympics did for Londoners.

Just as significantly, it has boosted cycling, both on the racing side and, more importantly, in terms of mass participation. This meshes perfectly with Verity’s long-term goal of making the county a world-renowned centre for cycling in all its forms. Yorkshire is not quite there yet, but the team presentation provided more evidence that it is well on its way.