Vuelta Espana champion Chris Horner says the Yorkshire public have matched the level of excitement created at the London Olympics with their welcome for the Tour de France peloton.
Horner, at 43 the oldest winner of a grand tour when he triumphed in Spain last year, was a visitor to the capital two years ago and knows Yorkshire folk have a lot to live up to based on previous experience.
But as he and his Lampre Merida team got used to their surroundings at the Wood Hall Hotel and Spa in Wetherby, Horner revealed that they had been blown away by the welcome.
Horner, who takes part in his seventh Tour de France, said: “Just from the presentation on Thursday it was a huge event with lots of people, but the Yorkshire people are being put to a high standard because I was in London for the Olympics and for the 2007 Tour and it was great, so the bar is set high.
“For me being in Yorkshire makes it a little simpler as an American.
“When I’m here it is pretty close to being at home.
“Yesterday we rode the final 20km, so we know what to expect tomorrow.
“It is a pretty difficult course, but the deciding factor of the race is going to be the wind conditions.
“We have got a great team, one built for the sprints. It is always difficult to win the Tour de France, but with Rui Costa we feel as though we can compete.”
Andrea Appiani, Lampre’s sports director, said the decision to choose Wetherby as their base rather than Leeds or Harrogate, was made because of the peaceful setting and access to the countryside.
“We decided to stay in Wetherby because we think it is a quieter, richer zone with a lot of very beautiful houses,” said Appiani.
“All the gardens are also nicely done and you can see that there is care behind it and it is lovely.
“Yorkshire is really caring about this event and it has been very well organised.
“It isn’t easy to make sure everything is set in the proper way, but they have done a good job.
“There are also good rides to cycle, despite the traffic, because it is quite hilly, and the hospitality of the locals has been very good.
“Yorkshire is not so different to Tuscany with its real hills.”