Five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault said the passion for the great race in Leeds had “touched his heart” on a visit to the city.
One of the great names of cycling visited three schools to help promote the Tour de France coming to Leeds next year, when the world’s best launch the 2014 race with the Grand Depart.
Along with Tour director Christian Prudhomme and Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity, Hinault was blown away by the welcome he received.
“The passion for the Tour from the people of Yorkshire is fantastic,” said Hinault, who is one of only four men to have won the Tour de France five times. “It touches our heart.”
The Tour delegation visited Kippax North Primary, Brigshaw High School and Language College, and Carr Manor Community School.
At Kippax North, Hinault and Prudhomme were treated to an enthusiastic response from a school of pupils who take cycling very seriously.
Inspired by the exploits of Britain’s cyclists at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the school started a cycling club shortly after.
And within a year the children had embraced the sport so much that they raised £3,000, coupled with external grants, to build their own cycling track around the school field.
Their reward was a visit from Tour legend Hinault and the chance to wear the famous yellow jersey.
Prudhomme said: “We’ve had such a warm welcome from the children and from the school. Every time I come to Yorkshire I have a smile on my face and even more so today.”
Leeds was officially awarded the 2014 Grand Depart last December, with the event not only being about cycling but all manner of gala dinners and pageants.
The first stage on July 5 will be a sprinter’s stage into Harrogate, before a more difficult climbing stage from York to Sheffield on July 6.
Prudhomme added: “Many things are ongoing. The teams are on the routes for stage one and two and are working hard.
“We’re very excited about those stages. I’m very confident in Yorkshire. I think it would be ready this June, not only next year.”
Mr Verity, who successfully lobbied to win the Tour bid, added: “Things are progressing incredibly well. Christian is pleased with how things are developing.
“A lot of his team have been over to analyse the route in fine detail, they’ve analysed the facilities, and they’ve all gone back to Christian in Paris and given him glowing reports.
“So we are well set, but we are not complacent. There’s a lot of hard work to come but we are in good shape.”