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Tour de France: Fans jet in to Sheffield from around the globe

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  • by Rachel Parry
 

How far would you travel to witness the world’s largest cycling race?

Among the crowds at Meadowhall’s Tour de France Fan Fest, answers varied from nine to 9,000 miles.

Some spectators made the short journey from Halfway, while others jetted in from around the globe to catch a glimpse of the action.

Husband and wife, Geoff and Jacquie Berkhout, perhaps deserved medals themselves for their Grand Depart efforts.

The keen Tour de France fans flew in from the other side of the world – Perth, Australia to be exact – to see the cyclists hurtle through Yorkshire.

They captured Stage One of the race in Hawes, North Yorkshire, before picking out Meadowhall as the ideal spectators’ spot to witness Stage Two of the gripping event.

Jacquie said: “We started following the Tour de France in 1991 and thought it would be great to come along and see it for ourselves.

“England is certainly a lot easier to get to than last year’s Grand Depart in Corsica so we thought we would make the trip and visit some other places while we’re here.

“If we’d have just wanted to watch the race we would have stayed home and put it on TV.

“Instead, we wanted to soak up the atmosphere firsthand and couldn’t wait to fly our Australian flags, while cheering on the Aussie cyclists.”

The couple were among thousands of visitors that descended on Meadowhall to join the centre’s Fan Fest.

Entertainment was provided for visitors of all ages ahead of the race passing by.

Family fun was top of the agenda with attractions including extreme biking, circus skills classes and climbing walls through to caving sessions, street entertainers and laser shooting experiences.

Karen Wanless, from Ranmoor, brought her children, Henry, nine, and George, six, along to join in the fun.

She said: “Why wouldn’t you come out to see a piece of sporting history in Sheffield?

“It’s been a great event for visitors of all ages and a fantastic atmosphere.

“The children are particularly excited to see the race go by and will be cheering on Team Sky.”

As the tour’s publicity caravan arrived at the centre crowds gathered in the Fan Fest Grand Stand and along the race route ready for the main spectacle of the day.

Having just tackled one of the hardest parts of the route – Jenkin Road – the cyclists whipped by as excited onlookers whooped, cheered and whistled them onto the finish at the Motorpoint Arena.

Meadowhall centre director Darren Pearce, said he was absolutely delighted with the turnout.

“We believe up to 50,000 people witnessed this spectacular sporting event which is just incredible.

“We wanted to create a really fun family atmosphere with activities for both children and adults to enjoy ahead of the race and it looks like we’ve achieved our goal.

“The Fan Fest was buzzing and everyone was having a great time.

“The Tour de France is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities so we’re really proud to have been a part of the event’s celebrations and to showcase not only what Meadowhall has to offer, but also our fantastic city and the region too.”

 

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