“There is a lot of excitement”: the Tour de France arrives in Denmark | Tour de France
VSbike lanes have been painted yellow, knitting enthusiasts have made a giant yellow jersey and preparations are underway for a flotilla of yellow-flagged boats. The ‘big yellow party’ comes to Denmark on July 1 when the country widely regarded as the world’s best for cyclists hosts the opening stage of the world’s biggest cycle race.
The Tour de France was originally scheduled to start in Copenhagen in 2021, but was moved to Brest in response to a Covid-related scheduling conflict with the European Championships.
The postponement of the Grand Depart from Copenhagen by a year was welcomed as allowing more time for planning and now, after the Covid closures, the organizers are hoping that their investment of 150 million Danish kroner (approximately 17.3 million sterling) will boost tourism.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the city,” said Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, cycling fan and mayor of Copenhagen, where a huge clock in the city’s main square counts down to July 1. “We are preparing for a big yellow party where everyone is invited,” Andersen said.
Denmark’s reputation as a cycling nirvana is well deserved. There are approximately 7,500 miles of cycle paths and cycle paths across the country and half of all Copenhagen residents commute by bicycle.
Cycling fans in Copenhagen will be able to try the Tour de France route for themselves on July 2, when professionals set off for stage two from Roskilde Cathedral, where Viking King Harald Bluetooth is believed to be buried. After a windswept sprint over the Great Belt Bridge, the course ends at Nyborg on the island of Funen.
The third and final Danish stage will begin on July 3 in the town of Vejle, known as the Kingdom of Cycling thanks to its alpine-quality climbs shaped by the Ice Age in an otherwise remarkably flat country.
The route will pass through the port of Vejle, with buildings designed by artist Olafur Eliasson, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Jelling, where Bluetooth raised the Jelling Stone in 965 CE, marking the unification of Denmark as a Christian nation. Cyclists will pass through Kolding, famous for its 750-year-old royal fortress, Koldinghus, as well as another Unesco World Heritage Site at Christiansfeld before finishing 113 miles later at Sønderborg.
A total of 5,000 volunteers will help keep the festivities going across the country, but the Municipality of Vejle has taken an interesting approach to boost engagement. “We wanted the community to feel like they owned the event instead of just commissioning projects,” said organizer Jacob Rasmussen, “so we created a DKK 3 million grant fund for innovative projects that celebrate cycling”.
Tour de France Vejle is run by an unassuming man in shorts named Lars Ulrich – a physiotherapist and cycling enthusiast who has spent his whole life explaining that he is not Metallica’s drummer.
Ulrich was tasked with getting non-cyclists excited about the race. “I thought to myself, ‘How can I make this event historic? How do I get him to be remembered for anything other than skintight lycra pants? “The Covid has separated us for so long that the Tour de France is an opportunity to reunite, I want everyone to be involved.
Sydbank employee Alex Slot Hansen has invested in 9,000 balls of yarn for residents of local hospices and care homes to knit a giant 600kg yellow jersey to hoist at the harbour. “I’ve had a lot of messages from caregivers saying this has been therapeutic for particular patients,” Hansen said.
Morten Teilmann-Jørgensen from the Viking Kings experience center invented “the Viking Biking Escape Box”. “You get in a box on a stationary bike and you see yourself on a screen,” Teilmann-Jørgensen said. “There are virtual ‘Vikings’ behind you, and when you start riding, they start chasing you.”
Restaurant owners and retailers are preparing for the city to double in size, with 100,000 visitors from around the world expected. Ulrich and his team focused on the importance of hospitality for local businesses and how to be a good host – something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally in a country that isn’t renowned for its culture of service.
Maria Theresa Olsen of Café Bryg in Vejle hopes to defy expectations. “I try to think, ‘If I was a tourist, what would I want?’ and ‘how can I give a good impression of this city that I’m proud to call home?’ she said.
“The eyes of the world will be on us, so we want to give the best experience possible.”
The one element of the experience that no one can plan for is the weather, and Denmark’s unpredictable summers make relying on the sun unnecessary. “I check the forecast daily and keep my fingers crossed,” Hæstorp Andersen said, “but it will be what it will be.”
Ulrich takes a more optimistic approach: “It’s like we always say in Denmark: ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothes'”.