Sunday 10 August 2014

Covering the Tour in France

It's been an incredible last few months reporting on the build up to the biggest annual sporting event in the world coming to Yorkshire. Now I've experienced what it's like to report on the Tour de France across the channel - as well as covering Stages 1 and 2 in Leeds and Sheffield I went to the Pyrenees and Paris to watch and report on five stages.

What struck me was the passion for the race in France both in smaller communities that it ran through like Saint-Lary-Soulan to cities like Pau that hosted the start of Stage 18. The French may not all be committed fans of the sport of cycling, but they are proud to host the Tour de France - and I've never seen grown men so enthusiastic about collecting freebies than when the Caravane whizzes past with sweets and salami thrown into the crowds!

With my press pass giving me access behind the scenes, I spoke to some of the key players in the race before and after the stages. This included a feisty interview with Sir Dave Brailsford about disparaging comments from another (very different) knight of the realm, Sir Bradley Wiggins. This made it onto BBC 5 Live – once I'd found 3G signal to send it back to the UK! I also reported on the finish line in Paris, speaking to the race director Christian Prudhomme for BBC Radio Sheffield and provided interviews for the BBC 5 Live Tour de France podcast with Team Sky's Geraint Thomas and the sprinting sensation Marcel Kittel.

I’ve blogged about reporting on the day the race came to Sheffield so here are my highlights of covering the Tour out in France...

As Christian Prudhomme told me, the good news is that the Grand Départ will be returning to the UK in the near future. That’s thanks to the enthusiasm shown for the race here in Yorkshire. My enduring memory of covering the Tour will be the huge crowds that turned out for the “grandest Grand Depart” (as Prudhomme likes to say!). I was so proud to be an honorary Sheffielder when the race came here. It seemed like everyone had ventured out to be on the route as the race passed by – from Bradfield to Oughtibridge, Pitsmoor to Wincobank – bringing huge amounts of enthusiasm, noise and colour. It was a truly special day when the city was united as one behind the most captivating sporting event.

Here are a couple of 6 second video recordings I made on the Vine mobile app. Click on the audio icon at the top left of the videos to turn the sound on.

The finish of Stage 18 at the Pyrenean mountain, Hautacam

The riders completing a lap of the Champs-Elysées in Paris just before the end of the Tour

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