Yorkshire to host Tour start in 2014
Yorkshire is the latest to benefit from the Bradley Wiggins effect and the feel-good factor generated by London 2012 after being awarded the start of the 2014 Tour de France.
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Two stages, the first beginning in Leeds, will be held in the county on July 5 and 6, Tour organisers Amaury Sports Organisation announced on Friday, after the Welcome to Yorkshire-led bid won the right to host the Grand Depart ahead of rival bids including an Edinburgh start, which was backed by British Cycling.
The third stage of the 101st Tour will finish in London, with Tour director Christian Prudhomme eager to capitalise on the experiences of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The lure of London may have been the clinching factor for the Yorkshire bid as the Tour returns to Britain for the first time since 2007, when one million people lined the streets of the capital for the opening prologue.
Ahead of the route announcement on January 17, Prudhomme praised the "outstanding beauty" and varied terrain of Yorkshire.
"Since the resounding success of the Grand Depart in London in 2007, we were very keen to return to the United Kingdom," Prudhomme said.
"Bradley Wiggins' historical victory last July and the enormous crowds that followed the cycling events in the streets of London during the Olympic Games encouraged us to go back earlier than we had initially planned.
"Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breathtaking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves.
"We have encountered a phenomenal desire from the Yorkshire team to welcome the Tour de France and have no doubt that passion and support will be particularly evident for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2014."
Wiggins became the Tour's first British winner in July and Yorkshire has a rich cycling tradition; Britain's first Tour stage winner Brian Robinson is from Huddersfield.
The Yorkshire bid also had the support of Team Sky's Ben Swift, double Olympic track champion Ed Clancy, Barry Hoban, winner of eight stages of the Tour, and Malcolm Elliott, the first British rider to win a points jersey in a Grand Tour.
Prolific Tour stage winner Mark Cavendish, whose mother lives in Harrogate and who first raced in a Leeds football top, also backed the bid.
The Isle of Man rider, who won the Tour de France points classification in 2011 and has triumphed in 23 stages in the event, said on Twitter: "Such great news to hear that le Tour de France £TDF2014 will start in my Mothers birthplace of Yorkshire! So excited. More racing in the UK!"
Swift, from Rotherham, who rode in the 2011 Tour, said on www.teamsky.com: "This news is going to take cycling to another level in the UK.
"You only have to see the crowds that turned out in London in 2007 when the Tour started there, and cycling has boomed in the country since then.
"The crowds at the Olympics road races were absolutely phenomenal and I'm sure that will be the case again in 2014.
"Yorkshire has got lots of places that are absolutely perfect for cycling and it would be one of the highlights of my career if I was able to take part in the 2014 Tour."
It will be the second time Britain has hosted the Grand Depart and the fourth visit in all following a single stage in Plymouth in 1974 and two across the south of England 20 years later.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity said: "I am in no doubt they will come to Yorkshire in their millions, lining the length and breadth of the route to cheer on the champions of world cycling and our home grown British heroes.
"Yorkshire is a passionate county of proud people and I am sure they will guarantee that their Grand Depart raises the bar in terms of expectations for all future hosts to come."
British Cycling president Brian Cookson and Mayor of London Boris Johnson were among those to announce their delight at the decision.
However, British Cycling were backing a different bid, the EventScotland-led Edinburgh start, with four stages - one in Scotland, one across the north of England, one in Wales and one in the south of England.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup will take place in Scotland, but a successful Scottish Tour bid may have to wait three more years.
An EventScotland spokesman said: "It is disappointing that we have been unsuccessful for the 2014 Grand Depart but it is great news that the Tour is returning in 2014 following British cycling success this year.
"Our initial plans had highlighted 2017 as our preferred date and we have had a positive indication from ASO that the year is still a possibility.
"We have developed a great British bid with strong partners, which would deliver significant benefits to the whole country and we will continue our positive dialogue with ASO in the New Year and look at our next steps."
The 100th edition of the Tour begins in Corsica on June 29, 2013.
Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson welcomed the announcement, saying: "It's great news that Yorkshire will host the Grand Depart and that the race will also come to London.
"Britain is riding high in the cycling world and the Tour coming to these shores will help grow the sport further. It's the latest in a long line of world class sport events we're hosting in the next few years, leaving a real legacy from London 2012."