Following the mighty success of Yorkshire at London 2012, with the likes of Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams and the Brownlee brothers bumping the county high up the “medal table”, it perhaps wasn’t a surprise to hear that two of the stages in the 2014 Tour de France will take place in Yorkshire – namely the first two.
The “Grand Depart”, as its known in the distinctly French competition, will happen in Leeds, where cyclists from the world’s best teams do battle for, arguably, the sport’s biggest prize. Hopefully, the opening peloton will include Chris Froome, the likely leader for Sky Procycling and possible winner of the 2013 edition if the Brits get their way again. Add to that the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, David Millar and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke all setting off in their home country and it makes it an even more exciting competition than this year’s event.
Not that I’m entirely sold on the idea of a British bonanza. The giveaway’s in the name – Tour de Yorkshire, sorry, France. Rumours of the festival beginning in the United Kingdom have been bandied about long before this year’s Tour kicked off in Liège, Belgium (a relatively more French location than Leeds, West Yorkshire) and it wasn’t a surprise that British Cycling and Yorkshire’s tourism board (and whoever was actually involved in the bid) have pulled off the coup. Maybe it’s just me, but I think a French cycling event, no matter how big, should stay in France.
Then again, the Tour of Britain proved how popular a home send-off could be, and that was a fairly minor event. If all of the big guns are present, just imagine the roads lined with flag-waving, face-painted maniacs like the road race and time trials at the Olympic Games. If that event allowed the Blackpool promenade and the Scottish mountains to shine, then it can only be a good thing for the famed Yorkshire countryside.
After Leeds and a currently unknown second stage (Sheffield? Please let it be Sheffield, I’ve never gone and lined the streets for a few seconds of action… except for the torch relay. On two occasions…), the bikes go into a back of a truck overnight and the action moves to London, all before the racing presumably begins again in France.
Once all the celebrations have finished, all the Yorkshire puddings are scoffed and the bitter’s drank, let’s get the 2013 Tour de France out of the way first, hm? Who knows; after 2012’s British success story, cycling may well leave a sour taste in the mouth if Team Sky and their British charges fail to impress next year and there’ll be no desire for a home “Grand Depart”. Still, with Wiggo the favourite to win BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award on Sunday, I reckon this wave of enthusiasm could carry us through until then.