THE head of the Tour de France has said the recent success of British cyclists is part of the reason the UK was chosen to host the start of the famous race, which will start in Yorkshire in 2014.
Jean-Etienne Amaury - the president of the race organiser, ASO - was visiting Yorkshire, where the opening two stages of next year’s race will be staged.
And he said he has not ruled out the Tour coming back to Britain again in the near future.
Mr Amaury’s visit came as Welcome to Yorkshire, the tourism organisation behind the successful bid to host 2014 Grand Depart, was celebrating securing a pledge of £10 million of Government funding to help stage the event.
He said he was impressed with the ongoing preparations in Yorkshire.
“It looks fantastic so far,” Mr Amaury said.
“We expect great enthusiasm here in Yorkshire for the Tour de France.
“We had the Grand Depart in 2007 in London and it was fantastic, the atmosphere was great.
“We expect similar enthusiasm here in Yorkshire.”
And he said the excitement about a British start to the event had even crossed the Channel.
“People (in France) are similarly excited because British cycling has been doing extremely well for the past years, and particularly in the past year with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France.
“So people are very much looking forward to this Grand Depart in Yorkshire.”
Asked if this British success was a factor in bringing the Tour to the UK, Mr Amaury said: “Yes. It was definitely one factor. Not the only one.
“The scenery and the quality of the infrastructure in Yorkshire has been also a very important factor to decide to host the Grand Depart in 2014 here.
“But how strong British cycling has been over the years has been an important factor, for sure.”
But he said he was not going to predict any British victories when the race moves to home soil.
“The best has to win - that’s the true spirit of sport,” he said.
One of the losing bids to host the 2014 Grand Depart was from Edinburgh.
Asked about this, Mr Amaury said there was no reason the Tour could not return to the UK before too long.
He said: “Right now our main focus is to prepare as well as we can this Grand Depart in 2014 in Yorkshire.
“But, considering how strong British cycling has been in the past years, there’s no reason why we would not come back in the next couple of years.”
The Tour will come to Yorkshire in July next year with the first stage going from Leeds to Harrogate and the second from York to Sheffield.
The third stage will move south, starting in Cambridge and finishing on The Mall, in London.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity said preparations were going well and he welcomed the news of a £10 million Government cash injection.
He said: “The local authorities are still putting a huge amount of resource into this but it’s important also we’ve got the bit from central Government now to mean that we can absolutely maximise the event so that we have the grandest Grand Depart that we can possibly have and the maximum economic impact.
“It ticks a lot of the Government’s boxes in terms of economic growth, in terms of rebalancing the north-south economy and making sure that we have a continuing legacy from the London 2012 games.”
Mr Verity said: “We knew it would galvanise the enthusiasm of the cycling fraternity in Yorkshire but it’s gone much wider than that.
“It’s inspired huge swathes of the population of Yorkshire.
“This will be massive for Yorkshire, it will be massive for the north of England. It’s a great thing and we’re so pleased to have this on the back of the 2012 Games.”