Yorkshire wins Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014
Preliminary discussions between the Tour organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation, Welcome to Yorkshire and the national governing body British Cycling have already occurred, and further meetings are scheduled. “We want to do something,” said the Tour organiser Christian Prudhomme. “We want something to remain after the Grand Départ has happened.”
The Guardian understands that two initial plans have been considered but shelved: a stage race this year which was knocked back due to the tight schedule, and a staging of the Critérium International in 2015, which was ruled out due to its late March date, when the Yorkshire weather may not be entirely reliable. The International will remain in its current home, Corsica.
A mid-May date is probable for the Yorkshire event. “We will look to spread the event around Yorkshire so that places that haven’t received the Tour this year will get the benefit,” said the Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity. “It will be the same UCI ranking as the Critérium International, and with ASO involved the quality of the riders and teams will be of the highest standard.”
Verity’s initial pitch is for a split stage on the Friday – time trial in the morning, short road race in the afternoon – followed by longer stages over the weekend.
British Cycling has confirmed that it is in talks. “We need to be assured that all new international event applications meet a number of criteria,” said its cycle sport and membership director Jonny Clay. “They include legacy and sustainability so we’re not just looking for events which are successful in the short term but over many years and with obvious benefits to the wider cycling community.”
The Yorkshire event is just one of a number of new international cycle races in Britain building on the current upsurge in the sport; 2013 saw the first running of the RideLondon one-day event while the Tour of Britain organisers Sweetspot are planning a women’s Tour based in the east of the country for this May, subject to final funds being sourced. There are also moves under way to relaunch the Tour of Lancashire.
A move into the British market also suits Amaury Sport Organisation’s plans for expansion on the back of the Tour de France; it was among the companies expressing interest in the Tour of Britain when that was up for tender. Under Prudhomme’s aegis it has quietly moved into Holland with the World Ports Classic – like the Yorkshire event, one that sprung from a Tour Grand Départ, in Rotterdam in 2010 – and have launched a stage race in northern Norway. Outside its traditional territory of France and Wallonia, it also owns a large stake in the Tour of Spain and runs events in Qatar and Oman.
The 2014 Tour de France will see Britain’s Chris Froome attempt to defend his title, beginning on 5 July with a 191km stage from Leeds to Harrogate, while stage two will travel from York to Sheffield before a third stage from Cambridge to London. Prudhomme said that the decision to go for Yorkshire in 2014 was based firmly on Bradley Wiggins’s successes of 2012 and the dramatic growth in cycling in Britain.
“London in 2007 was my first year at the head of the Tour,” said Prudhomme. “The popular fervour, the enthusiasm were incredible. But it was another world compared to the Grand Départ in Yorkshire. Bradley Wiggins was a great track rider but didn’t have the palmarès [achievements] that he has now; Mark Cavendish was riding his first Tour and had not even won the first of his 25 stages and Chris Froome was still in Africa. It was another era.
“In London in 2007 we said we would come back to England, for certain, but we thought it would be London. In my head it was going to happen 10 years later, and that was the direction we were moving when we had the bid from Yorkshire – what changed the game was the exceptional success of British cyclists on the road.”
The rethink at ASO took several months, but the spark was Wiggins’s Paris-Nice win in March 2012, after which it became clear he would be a favourite for the Tour. “Before Paris-Nice [in 2012] Florence had the edge over Yorkshire for 2014, but then Brad won the Dauphiné and the Tour and the London Olympic Games were a magnificent high point.
“Between March and August 2012 we said we would have to come to England as soon as possible after a British rider won the Tour, and there were four stages in the process – Paris-Nice, Dauphiné, the Tour, the Olympics. That’s why we went for Yorkshire over Florence. For Yorkshire to win ahead of Florence is no small thing. Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a really exceptional place, and the Tour has never started from Italy. I could cite other cities but those were the two finalists – the success of the British cyclists tipped the balance.”