Christian Prudhomme has revealed that Bradley Wiggins’ 2012 Tour de France victory and the success of the cycling events at the London Olympics played a decisive role in persuading him and his organising team to return to Britain “as soon as possible.”
Speaking at the presentation of the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France in Leeds, Prudhomme said: “The Grand Départ in London in 2007 was spectacular. We were wondering then how long it would be before we came back to Britain. Would it be 10 years? Twelve perhaps? But this amazing British summer for cycling convinced us to come back sooner, if not as soon as possible.”
Prudhomme also admitted it had been easy to be convinced by Yorkshire’s bid to host the 2014 Grand Départ. He offered praise to the team behind the Yorkshire bid, describing Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity as “an exceptional asset”, and adding: “I knew of Yorkshire, but I hadn’t realised it was so gorgeous till I spent a few days here in the spring.”
Prudhomme also pointed out that the Tour can now look forward to island starts for its next two editions. “In 2013 the Tour will have its most southerly Grand Départ in Corsica, while in 2014 it will have its most northerly in Yorkshire,” he said.
Yorkshire’s successful bid to host the Tour is reported to have cost £10 million or more, but Gary Verity insisted that bringing the Tour to the county will boost Yorkshire in many ways. “One of the reasons we bid for the Tour was to raise the profile of Yorkshire significantly on the international stage. We’re insistent on putting Yorkshire on the international cycling map and today is the start of a long and happy relationship with ASO. We will show everyone why Yorkshire is the right choice both for cycling and for the Tour,” said Verity.
“We are also convinced the Tour’s visit will have a huge economic impact. Two million people came out to see the Olympic torch when it passed through Yorkshire and we’re expecting in the region of three million to line the route of the Tour stages.”
He continued by saying that he hopes that the Tour’s influence will be felt across Yorkshire for a decade beyond 2014. “Legacy is very important to us. We want Yorkshire to be the top cycling region in the country. We have plans to give every child in Yorkshire access to a bike and provide them with cycling training, and we will also introduce look a network for cycle hire,” he explained.
Described by Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield “as one of the wisest men in France”, Prudhomme then went on to offer more detail about the opening stages of the 2014 race. “The first stage will be fairly flat. There will be two climbs that count for the King of the Mountains jersey. The final 400m will be straight into the finish and slightly uphill. A certain sprinter might want to please his mother who lives in Harrogate,” he said, referring to Mark Cavendish.
The second stage between York and Sheffield will be significantly tougher. “After a flat start there will be eight climbs on this stage. There will be 1400m of climbing in the last 60km of the stage. The riders will have to tackle the most famous climb in Britain, Holme Moss, which averages 7% for 4.8km. The following climbs are short but irregular. The last climb will be no more than 5km before the finish,” he said.
In a TV message, mayor of London Boris Johnson outlined plans for the finale of the third stage between Cambridge and the capital. “It is going to come into London from the Olympic Park and go around all those iconic sights – Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, you name it. I think it’s going to be wonderfully exciting. I’m looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be a fantastic festival of sport,” said Johnson, who confirmed that the stage will end on The Mall, exactly where the finish of the Olympic road race events was located.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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