THE world’s most famous bike race will take riders from Yorkshire’s Ilkley Moor to the gates of Buckingham Palace in 2014, Tour de France organisers announced today.
Details of the first three stages of the 101st Tour were confirmed in Paris this morning.
The three days will start in Leeds, York and Cambridge and organisers also announced that the third stage will include the Olympic Park, in east London, before finishing in The Mall, like last year’s Olympic road races.
A grand celebration is being planned in Leeds tonight to mark Yorkshire’s success in securing the Grand Depart for the UK.
Today’s announcement outlined an opening stage, on July 5, 2014, which will begin outside Leeds’s historic Town Hall.
It will then cover 120 miles through some of the best known parts of the Yorkshire Dales and surrounding countryside.
Riders will pass famous Yorkshire locations including Harewood House and Ilkley Moor, and the first yellow jersey of the tour will be presented in Harrogate.
The second stage, which will be 125 miles long, includes perhaps the most famous climb in British cycling - up Holme Moss, near Huddersfield.
It will also pass through Holmfirth, famous as the location of the long-running BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: “Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breath-taking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves.
“We have encountered a phenomenal desire to welcome the Tour de France and no doubt that popular acclaim will be particularly in evidence over there.
“The Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2007 in London, the first ever organised in the United Kingdom, will remain unforgettable. We are very glad to return, seven years after, to this magnificent city.”
Chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Gary Verity, who led Yorkshire’s successful bid, said: “The routes of the Grand Depart will showcase some of Yorkshire’s iconic cycling climbs and the county’s stunning land and cityscapes.
“The peloton will be technically tested as they tackle some challenging terrain in what are sure to be two exhilarating days of racing in the county.
“The British public’s response since the news broke that the 2014 Grand Depart would be hosted in Yorkshire has been overwhelming and I am sure the route announcements today will encourage even more people to come to the county to experience for themselves the phenomenon that is Le Tour.”
The decision to start the 2014 Tour in Yorkshire provoked excitement across the county when it was confirmed last year.
London staged the opening prologue in 2007 - the last time the race came to England - with one million people lining the streets.
This 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.
The world’s most famous bike race begins outside France every other year.
Yorkshire has a rich cycling tradition, with Britain’s first Tour stage winner Brian Robinson coming from Huddersfield.
Mr Robinson has been a major supporter of Yorkshire’s bid.
Britain also boasts the reigning Tour de France champion, with Sir Bradley Wiggins becoming the first man from the UK to win the event last July.
Leader of Leeds City Council Keith Wakefield said: “As a city we are absolutely thrilled to be hosting the start of the world’s largest annual sporting event in 2014, and speaking personally as an avid fan of the Tour de France and keen cyclist for over 25 years, I am incredibly proud and excited that Leeds has been given the honour of starting this amazing and legendary race.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is the Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “It is fantastic news that we will be welcoming the world’s largest annual sporting event to our city.
“I know Sheffielders will be out in their thousands to cheer on the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish through our streets.”
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “It has been the most incredible epoch in the history of cycling that any of us can remember and I am absolutely delighted that the world’s greatest cycling race is coming to the capital.
“People will see London framed by shooting velocipedes for what will be a fantastic spectacle of sport. I am going to be in the crowd and I hope thousands more will too.”
Kris Hopkins, the Tory MP for Keighley and Ilkley, said: “I am absolutely thrilled on behalf of local people, not just those who live in Ilkley but also in the surrounding areas, that the Tour is coming to our part of the country.”
Mr Hopkins added: “There are few announcements in my experience with no downsides, but this is one of them.”
But some major Yorkshire cities missed out when today’s route was announced.
George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford West, said he will be raising Bradford’s “snub” in Parliament.
He said: “I’m extremely disappointed over the decision not to route the Tour de France through the city of Bradford.
“In fact they seem to have decided a route which deliberately avoids the city, going to the leafy areas of Ilkley, Otley, Haworth and Keighley instead.”
Another area tipped for inclusion which did not make the final Yorkshire route is Scarborough and the county’s East Coast.
At a press conference in Leeds, Mr Wakefield said it was an “enormous privilege and responsibility” for the city.
The council leader said it was important to “make sure we build on the inspiration that the Olympic Games and cycling in the Olympic Games provided”.
Mr Wakefield said this meant inspiring young people to take up cycling and sport.
He said the team had “pulled off one of the greatest sporting achievements that Yorkshire has achieved”.
“Indeed, I think it is the biggest.”
Mr Verity said: “We will show you and the world why you took the right choice, both for cycling and the tour.”
He said the county was already ready - both in terms of roads and venues.
“The people of Yorkshire are excited, enthusiastic and proud,” he said.
Mr Verity told his French visitors of the varied attractions of “God’s own county”, invoking the names of Yorkshire heroes including Captain Cook, William Wilberforce, Lord Coe, Jessica Ennis, David Hockney and the Bronte sisters.
He said he thought three million people people would line the streets of the county to watch the event.