Exclusive: Region braced for bumpy ride in bid for cycling’s glamour event

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YORKSHIRE will face stiff competition to secure the 2016 Tour de France, with countries across Europe competing to stage the opening of the race.

The event is expected to bring huge sums into the host region’s economy, with the teams followed by thousands of fans and the world’s media.

Sources within the bid team said they are confident of success and talks are at an advanced stage – but warned rivals would be pushing hard to snatch the deal at the last minute.

The Tour has only visited the UK on three occasions before and the last visit to the South East in 2007 is believed to have generated more than £100m.

If successful, Leeds would not only host the race, but also organise numerous spin-off events such as a city centre music festival.

Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said it would be a proud day for the city and an opportunity it wanted to embrace.

“This is one of the most famous sporting events in the world and Leeds would be incredibly proud to host the Grand Depart,” Coun Wakefield said.

“As one of the UK’s most famous sporting cities I know our businesses and residents would embrace, support and celebrate the city hosting such a spectacular event.

“The teams, riders and visitors from across the world would receive a warm Leeds welcome and I am sure that would stay with them as they made their way across Yorkshire.”

In 2007 London and Kent hosted the opening stages of the race, called the Grand Depart. In 1994 racing took place in Dover, Brighton and Portsmouth and in 1974 the Tour began in Plymouth.

According to the main backer of the 2007 event, Transport for London, the Tour is estimated to have brought £88m to South East England and to have generated £35m worth of media coverage.

Spectator numbers were estimated at more than two million over the two days of racing while cycle journeys in the capital increased by more than 10 per cent after the Tour’s visit.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The economic impact for Yorkshire will be tremendous and we will do everything we can to make sure the event comes here.”

Mr Verity added that Yorkshire had a “proud history” of hosting world sporting events.

For many years the World Snooker Championship has taken place at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, recently the cross country leg of the Mountain Bike World Cup came to Dalby Forest and the region is due to host the Olympic Torch relay next year for six days.

There is a long history of international cricket at Headingley, and Hull was the location for the start of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

If the Tour is successfully secured, the county would benefit to the tune of tens of millions of pounds of extra visitor spending and be the focus of a worldwide television audience of over two billion people.

More than 185 countries around the world show the event every year on 92 different television channels with the last hour of every stage broadcast live across western Europe.

However, in recent years the tour has been dogged by drug controversies, with the spectre of doping looming over a number of competitors.

Yesterday, three times winner Alberto Contador revealed he may be free to compete again this year despite testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol during last year’s race, which he went on to win. He claimed he had eaten contaminated meat.

A spokesman for the 28 year-old Spanish rider said he had originally been due to face a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in the first week of June after the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed against the decision by the Spanish National Cycling Federation to clear him. The ongoing saga is likely to overshadow this year’s race, which starts in July.

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