Unforgettable weekend as Denmark hosts the Grand Depart
Denmark’s journey towards hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France began seven years ago in November 2015 when news first broke of the bid. Within eight months an official bid was proposed by the government and then city mayor Frank Jensen.
So maybe it was meant to be that Lukas Graham played their classic song ‘7 Years’ at the official Grand Depart ceremony held at Tivoli on June 29, where all the cyclists in the race were presented on stage. After all, the lyrics include the lines: “Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely.” Given the worldwide approval for the way Denmark has hosted the Grand Depart, the country has made lots of new friends!
In total, 22 teams, encompassing most of the 176 riders taking part in the race, first cycled a mini route through central Copenhagen. First they crossed the recently opened pedestrian bridge Lille Langebro, before heading down Vester Voldgade. Then they turned left at Rådhuspladsen, the City Hall Square where the idea of hosting the Tour de France started to germinate seven years ago. Pictured above is defending champion Tadej Pogačar (right).
The biggest cheer at Tivoli was reserved for Danish cyclist Jonas Vingegaard (centre right), who was joined by Jumbo-Visma co-captain Primož Roglič (right).
On Friday July 1 at 16:00, Denmark made history when the Tour de France began its most northerly ever stage in Copenhagen. In case it needed reminding of where it was, the torrential rain was relentless over the opening 90 minutes. Nevertheless, the reception from the locals was rapturous to say the least.
Among those enjoying the festivities were PM Mette Frederiksen and Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, the mayor of Copenhagen.
Meanwhile, out on the 13.2 km time trial route, Jumbo-Visma racer Wout van Aert ended up finishing second – not just in the time trial but in all three stages on Danish soil. Presumably, he couldn’t wait to head to France. When racing resumed on Tuesday he promptly won Stage 4!
Done that, got the t-shirt – yes, they literally all got t-shirts. On Saturday July 2, it was the turn of the Danish public to race the time trial course in an event called the ‘Tour De København’ and their prize for finishing was a splendid yellow t-shirt. Expect eBay to be flooded with these over the next two decades.
Between 08:00 and 12:00, tens of thousands turned up at Fælleparken to take on the challenge – although to be fair, many just started the route where they could find a gap in the barricades. Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, the mayor of Copenhagen, welcomed Crown Prince Frederik to officially start the race.
It’s fair to say that the whole field – in contrast to the scowls on the peloton when they met those cross-winds on the Great Belt Bridge on Saturday afternoon – was absolutely beaming!
If there was a poignant footnote to the Grand Depart, it was the many tributes to popular cyclist and TV2 commentator Chris Anker Sørensen, who was tragically killed whilst cycling for leisure in Belgium last September. The time trial course had hundreds of messages and portraits (left), but they couldn’t compete with the work of the two 60 kg robots that rendered a 40 by 30 metre drawing of the great man at Holbæk Sportsby, which the TV cameras picked up when the Tour de France passed by the northwest Zealand town on Saturday. Local fundraisers are raising money for Sørensen’s family (who will get the first 500,000 kroner) and the charity Børn, Unge og Sorg (children, youth and grief). The fundraiser stops on September 5, which would have been Sørensen’s 38th birthday