THE world’s biggest annual sporting event arrives in the Yorkshire Dales tomorrow (July 5) to find the remote communities awash with colour and excitement.
Thousands of people have already descended on the towns and villages along the route today - ready to cheer on the riders and join in the party.
Many are staying in one of the dozens of pop-up camp sites which have sprung up in the last few days.
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In every village yellow bikes and flags decorate the houses and businesses. Spotted and yellow jerseys hang from windows. The odd sheep can even be seen on the hillside with coloured wool, while in Low Row in Swaledale two lamas were being walked resplendent with polka dot colours.
Some locals beside the route have erected scaffolding outside their homes to get the best view of the event. Everywhere there were last minute preparations underway, with council workers and volunteers busy putting barriers up to keep the crowds safe.
Traditional Tour de France graffiti has been sprayed in numerous locations across the Dales. As well as encouragement for Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish, there is also some criticism of attempts to make some money from the event with one piece of graffiti saying “Yorkshire money grabbers”.
On Grinton Moor a Union Jack flag that had been painted on the road last week was washed away by council workers on Thursday.
A council spokeswoman later apologised saying the workers had been “over-zealous”.
Hundreds of cyclists were today (Friday, July 4) taking the opportunity to ride the route ahead of the professionals.
On top of the Buttertubs Pass, members of the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team were in position ready to help with any emergencies.
Controller Steve Clough said they had already come to the aid of two cyclists involved in separate incidents on Thursday night.
Mr Clough said one rider suffered broken bones – but it could have been a lot worse as he nearly fell 100ft into the valley bottom.
Among the thousands of people coming to watch the race were Amanda and Andy Bond, from Tarleton, in Lancashire, who had parked their camper van in a prime position in a lay-by half way up the Buttertubs Pass.
Others campers in the lay-by had been issued with a letter from the landowner requesting that they move, but the Bonds said they were staying put.
“We’ve taken two days off work to get here early and get a good spot- we’re not going anywhere,” Mrs Bond said.
Andy Britton is also camping in the lay-by and said he planned to dress up as a fairy and ride up the Buttertubs before the cyclists on Saturday morning.
Stuart Price, owner of the Dales Biking Centre, in Fremington, had three hours sleep on Thursday night.
The centre has 1,400 people camping in nearby fields who will be entertained by a big screen, music and live theatre at an event they are calling the Fete du Velo.
“It’s been a real team effort from out team, as well as local landowners and suppliers.”