SOUTH Yorkshire is gearing up to host part of next year’s Tour de France - with the world famous bike race coming to Sheffield on Sunday, July 6, writes Graham Walker.
Other British cities were today celebrating news after organisers confirmed launch stages will begin in Leeds, York and Cambridge.
These included confirmation that the third stage will take in the Olympic Park in London and finish in the capital, on The Mall.
Details of the exact routes of the first three stages of the race were announced in Paris today.
Stage Two of the so-called Grand Depart will star in York and end in Sheffield.
Riders will head for Knaresborough, the site of Mother Shipton’s Cave, on to Bolton Abbey, Keighley, the Bronte village of Haworth, then to Hebden Bridge.
From there, it is up Cragg Vale, into the spine of the Pennines, to Huddersfield, Holmfirth and the High Peaks.
Next is Holme Moss, descending into Sheffield where Stage Two will finish.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is the Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “It is fantastic news that we will be welcoming the world’s largest annual sporting event to our city.
“I know Sheffielders will be out in their thousands to cheer on the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish through our streets.
“The Tour has a worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion people and it is shown in over 188 countries around the world.
“It will be a great chance to showcase Sheffield on an international stage and it will also provide a welcome boost to the local economy.”
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The routes of the Grand Depart will showcase some of Yorkshire’s iconic cycling climbs and the county’s stunning land and cityscapes.
“The peloton will be technically tested as they tackle some challenging terrain in what are sure to be two exhilarating days of racing in the county.
“The British public’s response since the news broke that the 2014 Grand Depart would be hosted in Yorkshire has been overwhelming and I am sure the route announcements today will encourage even more people to come to the county to experience for themselves the phenomenon that is Le Tour.”
Organisers confirmed the Grand Depart of the 101st staging of the famous race will be in Leeds on July 5, 2014.
The world’s most famous bike race begins outside France every other year.
It will be the second time Britain has hosted the Grand Depart and the fourth visit in all following a single stage in Plymouth in 1974 and two across the south of England 20 years later.
Yorkshire won the bid in December, beating off rivals including Florence, in Italy.
The county has a rich cycling tradition, with Britain’s first Tour stage winner Brian Robinson coming from Huddersfield.
Britain also boasts the reigning Tour de France champion, with Sir Bradley Wiggins becoming the first man from the UK to win the event last July.
The decision to start the 2014 Tour in Yorkshire provoked excitement across the county when it was confirmed last year.
Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council, said: “We’re delighted to announce to the world that York is hosting the Tour de France Grand Depart, particularly as this year is its centenary race.
“As a cyclist myself, it’s a privilege to be appointed as the senior legacy lead for the region and to ensure that this important legacy lives on in Yorkshire, builds on this city’s long-standing commitment to cycling and inspires generations to come - maybe even a future Tour winner?”
Kris Hopkins, the Tory MP for Keighley and Ilkley, said: “I am absolutely thrilled on behalf of local people, not just those who live in Ilkley but also in the surrounding areas, that the Tour is coming to our part of the country.
“Ilkley is home to the fastest growing cycling club in the United Kingdom, with more than 1,000 members, and fully deserves this reward.
“The Tour de France is one of the world’s biggest and best classic sporting events and is on a scale not yet fully appreciated in this country.”
Mr Hopkins added: “There are few announcements in my experience with no downsides, but this is one of them.”
Today’s announcement, at the residence of the British ambassador to France, confirmed the first stage will begin outside Leeds’s historic town hall.
It will then cover 120 miles through some of the best known parts of the Yorkshire Dales and surrounding countryside. Riders will pass famous Yorkshire landmarks including Harewood House and Ilkley Moor.
The first yellow jersey of the tour will be presented in Harrogate.
The second stage, which will be 125 miles long, includes perhaps the most famous climb in British cycling - up Holme Moss, near Huddersfield.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: “Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breath-taking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves.
“We have encountered a phenomenal desire to welcome the Tour de France and no doubt that popular acclaim will be particularly in evidence over there.
“The Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2007 in London, the first ever organised in the United Kingdom, will remain unforgettable.
“We are very glad to return, seven years after, to this magnificent city.”
Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “As a city we are absolutely thrilled to be hosting the start of the world’s largest annual sporting event in 2014, and speaking personally as an avid fan of the Tour de France and keen cyclist for over 25 years, I am incredibly proud and excited that Leeds has been given the honour of starting this amazing and legendary race.
“The Grand Depart is going to be a real celebration for everyone in the city and our very special guests from all over the globe to enjoy, highlighting the best that Leeds and Yorkshire has to offer for a few days that none of us will ever forget.”
The Cambridge to London stage will see the riders pass famous landmarks in the capital, including Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “It has been the most incredible epoch in the history of cycling that any of us can remember and I am absolutely delighted that the world’s greatest cycling race is coming to the capital.
“People will see London framed by shooting velocipedes for what will be a fantastic spectacle of sport. I am going to be in the crowd and I hope thousands more will too.”