PARIS (AFP) — The overall start of the 2014 Tour de France will take place in the northern English county of Yorkshire, organizers announced on Friday.
Yorkshire, which has some of England’s most scenic countryside as well as former industrial towns such as Leeds and Bradford, has been lobbying intensely to host the start of the race.
Tour organizer Amaury Sports Organisation selected Yorkshire over a separate bid from Edinburgh, although the Scottish capital remains in the running to host a future overseas start.
Full route details will be announced January 17, 2013, but the race will start in Leeds on July 5, 2014, before a stage finish in London.
“Since the resounding success of the Grand Depart in London in 2007, we were very keen to return to the United Kingdom,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme. “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.
Some one million people lined the streets when the Tour last crossed the Channel from France five years ago, when the prologue was held in London, followed by a stage from the British capital to the southeastern city of Canterbury.
Before that, the race visited in 1974 and 1994, both times in and around the southern English coast, which is the closest part of Britain to mainland Europe.
“We have encountered a phenomenal desire from the Yorkshire team to welcome the Tour de France and have no doubt that passion and support will be particularly evident for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2014,” said Prudhomme.
Next year’s race — the 100th edition — starts for the first time on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Defending champion Wiggins this year became the first Briton to win the Tour.
Just weeks later, crowds several deep turned out to watch the Sky rider win gold in the Olympic time trial in and around king Henry VIII’s Hampton Court palace, southwest of London, compounding track success for Britain’s cyclists. Those wins have contributed to the steady rise in popularity for the sport in Britain, both as a form of exercise and transportation.
In a study published this month, sports funding and promotion body Sport England said some 200,000 more people were now cycling at least once a week than in 2011, bringing the total number of people cycling to nearly two million.
The Yorkshire bid was supported by former world champion Mark Cavendish, double Olympic track gold medalist Ed Clancy and Brian Robinson, who was the first British rider to win a stage of the Tour de France, in 1958. Eight-time Tour stage winner Barry Hoban and Malcolm Elliott, the first Briton to win a points jersey on a grand Tour, also lent their support.
The chief executive of the county’s tourism agency, Welcome to Yorkshire, Gary Verity, predicted that cycling fans would “come to Yorkshire in their millions” on a wave of enthusiasm sustained since the Olympics.
“Yorkshire is a passionate county of proud people and I am sure they will guarantee that their Grand Depart raises the bar in terms of expectations for all future hosts to come,” he said.