Giant bicycle artwork unveiled as Tour audience set to rise with first Chinese rider

The Northern Echo: EASTERN EXPOSURE: Ji-Cheng, the first Chinese rider in the Tour de France EASTERN EXPOSURE: Ji-Cheng, the first Chinese rider in the Tour de France

VISITORS to a Wensleydale town for the Tour de France will be greeted by an unusual sight - a giant bicycle artwork that can be seen seven miles away.

The group of ten volunteers who installed the 100m by 55m mountain bike image using 2,500sq m of woven fabric and 1,000 tent pegs said they wanted to ensure the Hawes section of the race route would not be forgotten.

The artwork, which cost £750 to produce and months to plan, has been installed on Stags Moor after gaining permission from the landowner and Natural England to leave it in place for up to 28 days.

Its designer, Griff Thomas, said it had been challenging getting the rolls of fabric into position.

He said: "People have commented that we have got the handle bars round the wrong way, but it was meant to be a mountain bike to celebrate that it is a King Of The Mountains stage."

"There have been loads of cars stopping and taking photographs of it and we really hope the helicopters that follow the riders pick it up as they come through.

“We wanted to make something that would create a real buzz and attract people to the Upper Dales not only race day for in the days before and long after the event itself."

Hawes councillor John Blackie said: “It says something about the community spirit we have in the Upper Dales, we have pulled out all the stops for the Tour de France."

The artwork was unveiled as it emerged the number of worldwide TV viewers for this year's race was expected to significantly rise following the inclusion of the event's first Chinese rider.

Giant-Shimano, whose team includes Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish's main rival for the sprint stages, has made a surprise addition of 26-year-old Cheng Ji, whose presence in the race is set to add exposure in his country.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “We are extremely proud that this year’s Grand Départ will be the first ever to feature a rider from China, and I am absolutely sure that cycling fans in China will fall in love with Yorkshire when they see it on their television screens."

A spokesman for Giant said: “It is a big deal, we know how much interest there will be with a Chinese rider."

A spokeswoman for the The Dragon Inn restaurant in Leyburn said it was exciting that a Chinese rider would be competing.

She said: "We are going to open for longer during the event and now may produce a special dish from the Chinese cyclist's region."

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