YORKSHIRE’S PART in this year’s Tour de France has been hailed a huge moment, not just for the region but the UK as a whole, as excitement for one of the world’s biggest sporting events reaches its height.
The importance of the region’s role in the first two stages of the most famous bike race was highlighted in the House of Commons yesterday. Culture secretary Sajid Javid spoke of how the Grand Départ was a “very important sporting moment” for the nation before confirming his attendance when stage one gets underway in Leeds tomorrow.
The Conservative MP joins the to the list of prestigious visitors – which includes the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prime Minister David Cameron – set to descend on Yorkshire this weekend.
MPs also suggested that the race could provide the UK with a much-needed boost following recent sporting setbacks. Following England’s early exit from the World Cup in Brazil and Andy Murray’s defeat at Wimbledon this week, all eyes will be on Team Sky rider Chris Froome, who is defending his champion’s yellow jersey after becoming the second ever Briton to win the race last year,
Speaking in the Commons, shadow sports Minister Clive Efford said the race would showcase some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside. He told Mr Javid: “Despite recent sporting setbacks our enthusiasm remains at fever pitch.
“Will you, like me, be among the three million it’s anticipated will go to watch the start of the Tour de France this weekend?
“The Grand Départ will showcase some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside and will you join me in wishing Yorkshire every success in hosting this event, wish every participant well and success of course to our British riders, and can you also say what you’re doing to ensure that the event goes smoothly and that the region continues to benefit from the boost to tourism it will get from hosting this event?”
Mr Javid replied: “I agree with you about the importance of the Grand Départ taking place in Yorkshire. I think it’s a very important sporting moment for the UK.
“I will be visiting on day one on Saturday. I look forward to seeing you there, as will the Prime Minister be visiting and Sports Minister Helen Grant will also be helping.”
Meanwhile, the team who have masterminded the Grand Départ – including more than 300 miles of road closures, along with enough fencing and barriers to line the road from Manchester to Leeds – have declared the county ready to host the largest annual sporting event in the world.
Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of the Tour de France 2014 the government-created company overseeing preparations, said: “I’m delighted to be able to say we are ready to deliver a historic spectacle for huge audiences.”