Tour de France: Chris Froome praises 'absolutely incredible' crowds on stage one
By Matt Westby in Harrogate
Last Updated: 05/07/14 8:22pm
Chris Froome praised the “absolutely incredible” crowds that lined the route of stage one of the Tour de France in Yorkshire and insisted “it doesn’t get much better than this”.
Hundreds of thousands of fans turned out to support the race, with an estimated 285,000 people descending on Leeds alone for the start of the stage and tens of thousands more gathering at the finish line in Harrogate.
In between, the roadsides were often six and seven people deep as fans flocked to see the Tour on only its second ever visit to Britain.
Froome, who got the defence of his Tour title off to an ideal start by finishing sixth, said: “The crowds out there were incredible, absolutely incredible - second to none.
“The crowds out on the climbs were absolutely massive. At one point we only had about a metre and a half to ride on the road and I think we can expect the same [tomorrow].
“The crowds were well-behaved, good crowds. As defending Tour champion, it doesn’t get much better than this.”
There were so many fans on the ascents of Buttertubs Pass and Grinton Moor that many stood on the road itself in scenes normally reserved for iconic Tour climbs such as Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux.
Although delighted to see so many people cheering the riders on, Froome offered a word of caution.
He added: “If anything, I would just say to the crowds please give us a little bit of space, but being here is unreal.”
The sentiment was echoed by Giant-Shimano rider John Degenkolb.
The German said: “It was hectic because of the crowds. Sometimes you just had half of the roads and it was very dangerous on the side of the road.
"This is only my second Tour de France, and my second Grand Depart, having done it last year in Corsica, but this year was incredible. It was like going up Alpe d’Huez with the crowds - it was that good. It was at least the same crowds as you get for an Olympic Games, even more.”