It’s often said that while the Tour de France cannot be won in the first week, it can certainly be lost.
And with a gruelling second stage from York to Sheffield announced for the route of the 2014 Tour, Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive, Gary Verity, is very much of that opinion.
The route of the 101st edition of cycling’s greatest race was unveiled by organisers ASO at yesterday’s Tour presentation, alongside full details of the first two stages in Yorkshire.
Speaking to RCUK after the presentation in Paris’ Palais des Congres, Verity admitted the excitement has been stepped up a level as preparations continue for the peloton to roll out of Leeds on Saturday July 5, 2014.
“You won’t win the Tour de France in Yorkshire, but you might lose it,” he said.
“That second stage [from York to Sheffield] is tough enough that if you don’t get your act together on that one – if you don’t have the right tactics or you’re not fully prepared for it – then you will get a shock.
“I was having a conversation with Chris Froome and he said the second stage is really going to be a testing one and he’s wanting to get over as soon as possible and do some training in Yorkshire, which we’ll obviously help him with.
You won’t win the Tour de France in Yorkshire but you might lose it
“The announcement is a really important milestone on the journey through to the Grand Départ. The excitement’s always been there since it was first announced, but it ramps up a huge amount now.
“There were 5,000 journalists here, live television coverage of the whole event around Europe and huge interest on social media and traditional media platforms – it was very big and now it’s just got a whole lot bigger!”
After departing from Leeds, the first stage follows a largely flat route to Harrogate where it is expected a sprinter will have the opportunity to bag the yellow jersey – as Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) did last year.
The German is targeting the opening stage again this year, but Verity admitted organisers had a certain other sprinter in mind.
He explained: “The first stage is a nice stage. It’s undulating. There are three climbs of minor classifications but it is designed for a sprinter to win.
“Marcel Kittel has already said following the announcement that the stage he’s got his eye on is that stage but obviously if we were allowed to have a preference it would be for Mark Cavendish to win in his mother’s home town!
“But clearly other sprinters have got their eye on that yellow jersey.”
Alongside its obvious importance to the riders, Verity also hopes Yorkshire’s Grand Départ will provide huge benefits to the sport in the county and in the UK as a whole.
The Grand Depart coming to Yorkshire will just accelerate the rise in cycling’s popularity enormously
He said: “It is of massive importance to both Yorkshire and the whole country.
“British cycling has been a hockey stick curve, an upward trajectory, probably since the Beijing Olympics.
“That’s obviously grown with the performance of Team Sky, and with the performances of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Christopher Froome.
“I’m sure that the Grand Départ coming to the UK, with two stages in Yorkshire and then that third stage from Cambridge to London will just accelerate things enormously.
“We’ve already seen that in Yorkshire – since the announcement of the Grand Départ there has been a massive interest in cycling and a huge uptake in the sport and I think it will just continue to build now.”
This year’s Grand Départ saw the Tour de France travel to Corsica for the first time to launch the 100th edition of the race, with the island attracting high praise from critics.
But Verity, who has maintained good relations with the Corsican organisers, is confident his team can go even better in 2014.
“Corsica did a great job with their Grand Départ,” he said. “But we will certainly do as good a job as they did, and hopefully we’ll better it!
I’ve promised the grandest ever Grand Depart and we will deliver that
“I’ve promised [Tour director] Christian Prudhomme the grandest ever Grand Départ – we will deliver that – and the spadework now goes on to making sure that happens.
“There’s no peace for the wicked at our end all our team our now really looking forward to getting their shoulder to the wheel.”
Alongside the full details of the Grand Départ, yesterday’s Tour presentation also revealed a route with just one time trial, five summit finishes and a cobbled stage from Ypres to Arenberg.
“I think it’s a fantastic route,” he added. “It’s going to be very challenging and there are obviously some aspects of it, with the cobbles for example, that will really test people.
“I think, for me, once you get out of the UK, if you asked me to pick some highlights, the climb of the Tourmalet will be an obvious one to pick, and Ypres will clearly be a very iconic stage.
“You’ve got some great things there and you’ve got a really tough Tour with only one time trial so that will clearly have an influence on the final outcome.”
For more details on the opening two stages visit http://letour.yorkshire.com/