YORKSHIRE is to host the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France, organisers of the cycling race announced this morning.
After a hard-fought bid by Welcome to Yorkshire, it has now been confirmed that Leeds will be the official host city for the opening stages of the world’s biggest annual sporting event.
“We are honoured that Leeds has been chosen to be the host city of the 2014 Grand Départ,” said city council leader Keith Wakefield.
“Leeds has a proud racing and riding history so it will be wonderful to welcome the biggest cycle race of them all to the heart of our vibrant city centre, inspire a new generation of Yorkshire cyclists to compete on the world stage and leave a lasting cycling legacy for the city.”
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme added: “Since the resounding success of the Grand Départ in London in 2007, we were very keen to return to the United Kingdom.
“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 Départ of the Tour de France 2014.”
Hosting the first two stages of the race is expected to generate more than £100m for the Yorkshire economy – and attract over one million spectators.
York, Scarborough and Sheffield are due to feature on the race route which is likely to incorporate gruelling hill climbs in the Yorkshire Dales and across the North York Moors.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, the agency behind the county’s bid, said: “Today is a proud day for everyone involved in the bid and the county as a whole. We are honoured that the race organisers, the Amaury Sport Organisation, have selected Yorkshire to be the host location of the 2014 Grand Départ.
“It will mean less than two years after hosting the Olympics the British public can look forward to another of the world’s biggest sporting events coming to the country, and 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.”
The county will host the first two days racing on the 5th and 6th July before the Tour moves south for a third stage in southern England, with a finish in London. The host city of the Grand Départ will be Leeds which will host a festival of cycling and the arts to coincide with the arrival of the Tour.
The route through Yorkshire will be announced on January 17, but there is speculation it will take in a 200km run from Leeds to Scarborough, via Harrogate and the North York Moors. It could also include the steep-ramping Sutton Bank on the western fringes of the moors and Ampleforth Abbey, where the 2012 British Championships were held.
The second stage could snake south to Sheffield, via Ilkley Moor and Otley, home of Olympic cycling medallist Lizzie Armitstead, and perhaps Huddersfield, home town of Brian Robinson, Britain’s first Tour stage winner in 1958.
The Tour de France is one of the world’s top global sporting events attracting a TV audience of over 3.5 billion people. Started in 1903, the three-week cycle race travels around France and surrounding countries covering over 3,500km. It attracts teams and riders from around the world and was last held in the UK in 2007 when London and Kent hosted the opening stages.
British cycling is now a world beating force - both on the road and on the track. Bradley Wiggins this year became the first British rider to win the Tour and followed it up by winning gold at the London 2012 Olympics.
The Yorkshire bid boasted support from former world champion and Tour de France sprint star Mark Cavendish, two-time Olympic champion Ed Clancy, Team Sky’s Ben Swift plus Brian Robinson - the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de France in 1958.
Barry Hoban - winner of eight stages of Le Tour - and Malcolm Elliott the first British rider to win a points jersey in a Grand Tour were among over 170,000 supporters who pledged to back the bid.
A statement from the tour organisers, noted: “After an outstanding 2012 for British cycling, marked by the historical victory of Bradley Wiggins on the Tour de France, the United Kingdom will again hold pride of place in 2014.”
British Cycling’s president Brian Cookson said: “Like every other cycling fan, I am thrilled the world’s biggest bike race is coming back to this country.
“The huge numbers who turned out to support the 2007 Grand Depart and the London 2012 road races show the passion we have for cycling.
“I’m sure Yorkshire will give the 2014 Tour de France a welcome which will stand out in the race’s rich history.”
VisitEngland’s chief executive James Berresford said: “Congratulations to Yorkshire on winning the bid. This is a fantastic opportunity for Yorkshire and will showcase to the world the outstanding beauty and breathtaking landscapes of this wonderful area of England.”
He went on: “We’ve shown this year that England can host the most prestigious sporting events in the world with warmth and panache. In 2014 we have another opportunity with the Tour de France and again in 2015 with the Rugby World Cup.
“Sport runs through the very fabric of this country and is an incredibly powerful tool to encourage visitors both from at home and overseas to take a holiday in England.”
Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon, said: “I am delighted by the news that Yorkshire will be host to the Tour de France’s Grand Depart in 2014. This will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase Yorkshire to the world, bringing yet another world class sporting event to the UK.
“With a global audience of over two billion people watching the Tour de France every year, the backdrop is vital. In Yorkshire you could not ask for more. Some of the most iconic roads and scenery in the country, if not the world are here.”
Kenton Robbins, regional director for the Yorkshire Institute of Directors said: “This is a fantastic achievement for Welcome to Yorkshire who have driven this project forward and which will benefit every part of the region.
“It’s fantastic news for the economy of Yorkshire providing opportunities for manufacturing, services, tourism and commerce. There will be an obvious jobs boost in certain areas but also a ripple effect that will have far reaching benefits.
“From January every business in Yorkshire must prepare itself to bid for the contracts that will be presented. Private and public sector must work together to ensure seamless delivery of this ambitious project that was once a pipe dream.
“To achieve this for 2014 when other high profile European tourism destinations were being considered proves that Yorkshire ranks alongside locations such as Barcelona, Paris and Berlin. This shows just how hard Welcome to Yorkshire has worked to raise the profile of the region as a tourist destination of international standard.”
The Tour de France attracts 12 million spectators along the route in a typical year’s race. 1,200 hotel rooms are reserved each night for the teams, staff, press and tour personnel. There are 4700 hours of TV coverage and 2,000 accredited journalists from around the world attend.