Yorkshire promises "greatest Grand Départ in the history of the Tour de France”

Yorkshire is aiming to deliver what Welcome2Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity says will be the “greatest Grand Départ in the history of the Tour de France.”

Speaking at the 2014 Tour de France presentation in Paris, Verity claimed that “The Grand Départ will put Yorkshire on the map as a destination capable of hosting world class events in a world-class location, providing a springboard to greater things. We are excited, we are proud and we are ready to welcome the world.”

Verity has long insisted that the Tour de France start in Yorkshire will be about much more than the two race days in the county. He and his team are now beginning to release details of how the Tour will be celebrated and leave a lasting legacy. These include way marking the two Tour stages, holding a sportive on those roads prior to the Tour, and a 100-day cultural festival.

“We will raise the bar for all future hosts with our Cultural Festival 100 days before the race, two stunning stages and a legacy that leaves a cycling imprint on the county which lasts for generations,” Verity claimed, admitting to being extremely nervous before delivering his bullish presentation in French at the Palais des Congrés.

The Welcome2Yorkshire chief executive said he believed there will be “a minimum of one million spectators per day and probably closer to two million, that will depend on the weather. People will realise it is a once-in-a-generation thing and they will turn out in big numbers.”

Funding polemic

The morning of the Tour presentation started in a less than ideal way for those involved in Yorkshire’s Grand Départ. BBC Radio Leeds reported that it had seen official papers indicating that former sports minister Hugh Robertson was very concerned the Grand Départ might not happen without Government filling a substantial funding gap. According to Radio Leeds, the papers said Robertson had pushed the Government to reach a rapid agreement on a commitment for a £10 million grant, which makes up almost half of the total cost of hosting the Tour’s start.

Gary Verity dismissed a suggestion that the Grand Départ might not have taken place without the Government’s financial intervention, describing it as “preposterous”. Verity said the £10 million grant would ensure that what was already set to be a “grand” start to the 2014 race would now be even grander.

A sprint finish in London on stage three

The presentation in Paris also revealed the first details of the race’s third stage between Cambridge and the Mall in London.

What was always likely to be a stage that will suit the sprinters will start with a loop past many of Cambridge’s most famous colleges, before heading south and east through Saffron Walden into Essex. After passing Braintree and Chelmsford, the route dives south and west towards the Olympic Park in East London. It then continues on through the City towards the spectacular finish on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.

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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).