By Paul Osborne

Riders were paraded through Leeds today before the Tour de France Opening Ceremony was held inside the Leeds Arena ©Getty ImagesThousands of fans lined the streets of Leeds today as riders in this year's Tour de France paraded through the city centre before making their way to the Leeds Arena for the Tour's official Opening Ceremony.

All 198 riders travelled from Leeds University through the city centre to the arena as almost 12,000 enthusiastic fans packed the venue for the two-hour long show, billed as the biggest Opening Ceremony in the Tour's history.

Organisers of the Tour de France's visit to Yorkshire say it is the first time the traditional team presentation event has been incorporated into a lavish Opening Ceremony showcasing the county, the sport and the race.

The Ceremony itself was presented by BBC's Jill Douglas and "the voice of Radio-Tour", Sébastien Piquet.

It was opened by Leeds band Hope & Social who performed with 100 local people, including a roller-skating choir, to form The Band Anyone Can Join.

Brighouse indie rock band Embrace headlined the bill that also featured the official Grand Depart theme song The Road, performed by Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh and York singer Alistair Griffin, as well as French artist Pauline Vassuer and Opera North.

Great Britain's Chris Froome was the last man on stage as he gets ready to defend the title he picked up at last year's Tour ©Getty ImagesGreat Britain's Chris Froome was the last man on stage as he gets ready to defend the title he picked up at last year's Tour ©Getty Images

The event also featured a presentation of all 22 teams taking part in the race.

"I was used to do a teams' presentation at the Tour de France but this time it was a real Opening Ceremony," said British cycling start Mark Cavendish.

"It's massive," added defending champion Chris Froome, the last man to take the stage.

"I can't say enough.

"It's been unreal since I got here for the Grand Départ.

"I'll certainly give it all and I can guarantee the eight guys with me will do the same for the next three weeks and I hope to be on stage with the yellow jersey in Paris again."

The Tour de France Grand Départ stage one is due to begin on Leeds' Headrow on Saturday (July 5) before making its way to Harrogate via the Yorkshire Dales.

The second stage will run from York to Sheffield on Sunday (July 6) before the third stage sees riders travel from Cambridge to London on Monday (July 7).

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