THE world’s biggest single sporting event is heading for the region, topping off a fairytale year for British sport.
After leading Britain’s gold rush at the Olympics, Yorkshire has won the right to host the opening two stages of the 2014 Tour de France, which could generate £300m for the region as the race passes through the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors and along the Yorkshire Coast.
The world’s top cyclists joined their fans, politicians and businessmen celebrating yesterday after the tour’s organisers announced on Twitter “"The Tour de France 2014 Grand Départ will take place in Yorkshire!".
Cycling star Mark Cavendish, who has backed the bid, responded: “Such great news to hear that le Tour de France will start in my mother’s birthplace of Yorkshire! So excited. More racing in the UK.”
It has been estimated the race will attract millions of fans, after it emerged earlier this month nearly two million Britons now cycle at least once a week, making it the country’s third most popular sport.
Gary Verity, chief executive of tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire, which led the bid, said: "This 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.
“Yorkshire is a passionate county of proud people and I am sure they will guarantee that their Grand Départ raises the bar in terms of expectations for all future hosts to come.”
Details of where the tour will pass through on July 5 and 6 2014 will be announced next month, but it is known after the two Yorkshire stages the Tour will head south for with a finish in London.
The decision to stage the race in Yorkshire followed three years of work by Welcome to Yorkshire, which in May bid tabled an outline bid to stage part of the 2016 race.
However, it is understood following Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky’s victories at this year’s Tour, race organisers ASO asked the Yorkshire bidders to consider hosting the Grand Depart in 2014. Multiple Olympic gold medallist Wiggins recently stated in his book, My Time, that 2014 could be the final Tour of his career, meaning that the Yorkshire start could be a perfect swansong for him.
While a planned ten-year programme of investment in cycling is believed to have added weight to the bid, the tour’s director general, Christian Prudhomme, said the “phenomenal desire” of the Welcome to Yorkshire team, the 170,000 pledges of support for its Back le Bid campaign and the region’s outstanding scenery had sealed the deal.
He said: “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.”