Yorkshire begins six month sprint to the start of the Tour de France

Darlington and Stockton Times: Yorkshire has just six months to go before the Tour de France arrives in the county. Yorkshire has just six months to go before the Tour de France arrives in the county.

THE “penny’s started to drop” says the man responsible for bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire - as the county begins the six month countdown to the world’s largest annual sporting event.

For the Grand Depart 2014 will arrive in Yorkshire together with an entourage of the world’s media and some of sport’s most recognisable figures; Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish.

Many national commentators are tipping it to be one of the top sporting spectacles of the year.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire - the tourism agency that landed the tour’s Grand Depart – said the realisation of the scale of the event heading to the region was beginning to hit people.

“'We're starting to get very giddy now,'' he said.

''With around about six months to go, it's very real. I think that the penny's started to drop with a lot of people.

“The Tour de France has never seen anything like Yorkshire before and Yorkshire had never seen anything like the Tour de France.

“You put these two things together and you've got the recipe for something to be incredibly exciting and I think people are starting to get the gist of that now.''

Stage one will start in Leeds on Saturday, July 5 and take riders through Skipton before heading into the Yorkshire Dales then back via Ripon towards Harrogate.

It is expected to end in a sprint in Harrogate, giving Mark Cavendish the chance to take the race leader’s yellow jersey in his mother’s home town.

Stage two starts the following day at York’s Knavesmire racecourse. It passes through the historic city en route to Knaresborough and Harrogate and on to Sheffield.

The Grand Depart then moves to Cambridge and finishes on The Mall, in London.

Celebrations will start at the 100-days-to-go-mark on March 27 but Mr Verity says the county could stage the Grand Depart tomorrow if Tour chief Christian Prudhomme demanded it.

''Yorkshire's ready now,'' he said.

''The reality is that we've been ready for some time. The roads are ready, the local authorities are ready, all of our partners who we are working with are ready and we are very excited about this.''

Conservative estimates suggest the tour will boost the Yorkshire economy by around £100 million.

According to Mr Verity, the longer term benefit could be three times this amount. He said the economic effects have already been felt, with one major bank relaxing its business lending criteria to Yorkshire businesses on the strength of the expected impact.

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