Details of the Tour de France 2014 Grand Depart have been confirmed, with the three stages to start in Leeds, York and Cambridge.
Yorkshire won the right to host the opening three days of cycling’s biggest race in December, bringing the Tour de France back to British soil for the fourth time after previous visits in 1974, 1994 and 2007.
“After the unforgettable 2007 Tour in London the question for us was how long before we come back?” said race director Christian Prudhomme. “With the amazing summer of cycling in Britain, we were convinced to come back sooner. As soon as possible.”
The 101st edition of the Tour will start outside Leeds Town Hall, where Prudhomme announced details of the route at a press conference on Thursday, for an opening stage on Saturday July 5 which should result in a sprint finish in Harrogate.
The route will pass through Harewood, Otley, Ilkley, Skipton, Kettlewell, Aysgarth, Hawes, Reeth, Leyburn and Ripon, skirting the the Yorkshire Dales National Park – but, with just two categorised climbs on the menu, it will give Mark Cavendish the chance to pull on the maillot jaune in the town where his mother lives.
“None of the sprinters need fear this stage,” said Prudhomme of the 190km route, of which the final 70km are flat.
Stage two will then follow a 200km route, starting in York and finishing in Sheffield, tackling terrain which Prudhomme compared to Liege-Bastogne-Liege, one of the toughest one-day Classics on the cycling calendar.
The parcours, typical of the opening week of the Tour de France under Prudhomme’s leadership, includes six climbs and 1,400m of ascent in the final 60km, and will suit puncheurs in the mould of Philippe Gilbert and Edvald Boasson Hagen.
The stage will pass through Knaresborough, Silsden, Keighley, Haworth, Hebden Bridge, Elland, Huddersfield and Holmfirth, and will include the climb of Holme Moss in the Pennines: one of the most famous ascent in British cycling history.
The peloton will then leave Yorkshire and transfer to Cambridge for the start of stage three. The early stages of the 170km ride to London are to be confirmed but, once in sight of the M25, the route will head through Epping Forest and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park before a grandstand sprint finish in front of Buckingham Palace on The Mall.
Three million people are expected to line the roads of Yorkshire, one of Britain’s cycling hotbeds having produced riders including eight-time stage winner Barry Hoban, Team Sky rider Ben Swift and Olympic road race silver medallist Lizzie Armitstead.
“Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breath-taking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves,” said Prudhomme. “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.”
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, the agency behind the county’s bid, added: “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.”
Stage one, 190km, Saturday July 5
Leeds – Harewood – Otley – Ilkley – Skipton – Kettlewell – Aysgarth – Hawes – Reeth – Leyburn – Ripon – Harrogate
Stage two, 200km, Sunday July 6
York – Knaresborough – Silsden – Keighley – Haworth – Hebden Bridge – Elland – Huddersfield – Holmfirth – Sheffield
Stage three, 175km, Monday July 7
Cambridge – Epping Forest – Olympic Park – The Mall