LEEDS WILL not know what has hit it when the Tour de France rolls out of the city in just four days’ time.
That’s the prediction from 2013 winner Chris Froome, who is preparing to defend his title when the iconic event begins in West Yorkshire on Saturday.
Froome – who finished second in 2012 before winning the world’s greatest bike race for the first time 12 months ago – has described the Tour de France as being like the Olympics coming to Yorkshire for two days.
Saturday’s stage one of the world famous race will see riders go from Leeds to Harrogate, with the following day’s leg linking York and Sheffield.
This year is the fourth time the Tour de France has visited England, but its debut in the north of the country and Froome said the Yorkshire public will be stunned at the scale of the spectacle.
“At the end of the day the mainstream sports in this country are obviously cricket, rugby and football and they are still at the top of everyone’s list,” said the Team Sky rider.
“But I think people will be surprised just at the wow factor of the Tour de France and how big it is when it comes through your town.
“I think for us, it is almost like the Olympics coming round every year.
“As a professional cyclist it is the big event and for it to be here in the UK, it is a big deal.”
Expectations will be high this year as Team Sky aim for a third successive victory, following Froome’s triumph last year and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ historic first British win in 2012.
Froome described Sky’s achievement in winning back-to-back Tours as “huge”, but warned there are no guarantees.
Froome and Sky will start as favourites, but the competition could be more intense this year with former winner Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali – last year’s Giro d’Italia champion, who was third in the 2012 Tour – likely to be among the British rider’s main rivals.
“I hope people are not lulled into a false sense of how easy it is, because we have managed to do it for the last two years,” Froome said.
“We need to put things into perspective and remember it took 99 editions for a British rider to win the Tour de France.
“It really is a massive undertaking to go back this year even contemplating going for a third win, but I really do believe we have got the team to do it.
“We have a really strong team going into the race, full of experience and ability and we’ve spent a lot of time together this year, which is very important. We are ready to get started and I can’t wait to get to Yorkshire.”
Sky could have one advantage this year, according to Froome, in the form of their new bike, the Pinarello Dogma F8
“It will add an extra little element for us,” Froome said. “We have got a new bike which we think is another step from the previous bikes we had.
“I am really looking forward to racing on it. They have managed to get the weight down on it and I don’t know how, but it seems to feel a lot more rigid than the last one, even though the last one was already a very, very decent bike.
“The big thing is the aerodynamics, they have really managed to shave the bike off in a lot of places and make it as quick as possible.”
David Millar says he has been denied a Tour de France swansong after missing out on the final selection for Garmin-Sharp.
The 37-year-old Scot was expected to be chosen in Garmin’s final nine for his 13th and last Tour, before his retirement at the end of the season.
Now Millar has revealed he will not be on the start line in Leeds, joining Wiggins, Pete Kennaugh, Ben Swift (all Team Sky) and Alex Dowsett (Movistar) in missing selection.