Leeds has shown the world it is ready to host the world’s greatest cycling race.
Fireworks and celebrations last night (Jan 17) marked the announcement of the two routes for the Grand Départ for the 2014 Tour de France, which starts in the city next July.
As the countdown began in earnest, council chief Keith Wakefield hailed the city’s landing of the event as the greatest sporting achievement in Yorkshire’s history.
The two days of racing plus the gala dinners and pageants beforehand are set to net Leeds and the Yorkshire economy more than £100m.
Leeds will be the centre of the Grand Départ, with Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and the rest of the fastest men on two wheels beginning their bid for the yellow jersey in the city centre on July 5.
The first stage ends with a sprint finish in Harrogate, the second, on July 6, runs from York to Sheffield.
Coun Wakefield said: “This is the greatest sporting achievement Yorkshire has experienced. We are opening up to a world stage for a world class event. It’s a responsibility and a privilege.”
Tourism board Welcome To Yorkshire is behind the bid, and wowed Tour director Christian Prudhomme on a visit to the county last spring.
Yorkshire beat rival bids from the likes of Edinburgh, Florence and Utrecht to land the prestigious event.
Welcome To Yorkshire chief Gary Verity sees the Tour as having three benefits to the region: economics, legacy and arts.
“We are going to get more people cycling more often,” said Mr Verity, of the legacy he hopes the appearance of Wiggins and Cavendish and other cycling heroes will have.
“We have plans for every child in Yorkshire to have access to a bike and cycling training. And we will look to introduce bike hire as you see around other cities.
“Our aim is that 10 years after the Tour first visits Yorkshire, the county is still reaping the benefits of that visit.
“The Grand Depart in London in 2007 made £90m, and we hope the figure will be significantly more than that.
“Two million people came out to watch the Olympic Torch in Yorkshire, more than in any other area outside of London and we think somewhere in the region of three million will line the route of the Tour which will be a huge boost to local and rural economies alike.”