INTERNATIONAL cyclists returned to the gruelling climbs, twisting lanes and cobbled streets of Bradford district as the final day of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire brought out the crowds and beat the weather.

A cold, wet and windy start miraculously changed to blue skies as a belt of bright sunshine moved with the race from Oxenhope to Otley watched by cheering onlookers - including Prime Minister David Cameron.

Gary Verity, the chief executive of organiser Welcome to Yorkshire, said “Once again we’ve seen staggering crowds provide a rousing welcome for these incredible riders.

"I salute each of the 144 riders in the men’s race and 98 in the women’s, and the 6,000 who took on the sportive. We thank the people of Yorkshire and the riders, the crowds, the tour makers, the ASO and our team at Welcome to Yorkshire should be immensely proud of the weekend’s achievements.”


Initial spectator figures from police and race organisers indicate that on Stage One, 250,000 people watched by the roadside, followed by 450,000 on Stage Two and 750,000 on Stage Three.

Margaret Hindley and her husband Reg, an Oxenhope parish councillor sat outside their home as the dozens of racer flashed by.

"It's just so good for community spirit, it's great everyone has turned out," Mrs Hindley said.

A torrential morning downpour had threatened to wash out the Tour de Yorkshire’s visit to Brontë land but the flags were dry by the time the riders arrived in Haworth where hundreds of people lined Bridgehouse Lane and Main Street.

Cullingworth man Paul Corcoran, who runs Pennine Cycles at Fairweather Green, watched with his wife Sandra and holding a yellow cycle.

"On these hills they’ll go faster downwards than you could ever imagine," he said.

Each subsequent rider was greeted with a cheer, the biggest noise being reserved for the final pair as they hit the cobbles just ahead of the last police vehicles and ambulance.

The Tour de Yorkshire rocketed on to Cross Hills and Silsden where just before them cyclist dressed as a ram got a big cheer from the crowd on Bolton Road.

Spectator Gareth Saunders, 43, from Steeton, who was there since 1pm, said: “I really enjoyed the Tour de France, so there was no way I was going to miss this. It’s great to see so many people here already.”

Addingham folk got a shock when Prime Minister David Cameron suddenly arrived to join them.

Just days before the election the PM, accompanied by Keighley MP Kris Hopkins, spoke to the volunteer tourmakers who had helped the event run so smoothly, before taking a spot outside Addingham Memorial Hall for the race.

He posed for photos with dozens of people, young and old, and even lifted one girl up on her shoulders to get a better view.

After the race seven-year-old Amelie Bone, a pupil at Addingham Primary School, said: “I sat on the Prime Minister’s shoulders, I didn’t expect that today.”

Her brother Charlie, ten, also enjoyed meeting the PM, and said: “It was incredible, no one knew that the Prime Minister was coming. We took lots of selfies.”

Will Cuffe, ten, said: “I’m really shocked he came here.”

His friend Harry Orr, nine, said: “It is a once in a lifetime experience.”

In Ilkley, Steve and Jean Hogben had travelled all the way from Inverness, to join daughter, Lucy, from York, on The Grove, to wave cow bells in support of the cyclists."

There was a tense moment less than half an hour before the first riders reached The Grove, when an inflatable gateway marking the sprint stage collapsed across the street. There were cheers as a replacement generator was found and the gate was re-inflated in good time before the peloton shot though and headed up the hard climb to the Cow and Calf rocks and then on to Menston.

Police have praised the fantastic atmosphere created by an early estimate of around three quarters of a million spectators on the third and final day of the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom, who commanded the police operation on Sunday, said: ‘‘Despite a somewhat wet start to the day the crowds exceeded all expectations and provided the final stage of this exclusively Yorkshire event with an unparalleled atmosphere.

‘‘At the present time we haven't taken one report of a crime related to the policing operation today and that speaks volumes of the good natured atmosphere created by spectators who've lined the route in their thousands.’’

Earlier in the day, thousands of sportive cyclists took in part The Maserati Tour de Yorkshire Ride which took in part of the route.