Leeds enhances status as centre for cycling

2014: Mark Cavendish leads the cyclists down the Headrow at the Start of the Tour de France. PIC: Simon Hulme
2014: Mark Cavendish leads the cyclists down the Headrow at the Start of the Tour de France. PIC: Simon Hulme
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Leeds’s status as a showpiece for major sporting events will again be confirmed later today when it is named as one of the key venues for next year’s UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire.

The city is set to stage the start of one of the blue riband senior road races with either the men or women setting off towards Harrogate from the centre of Leeds.

And whichever headline race the city gets, that route will have echoes of the memorable opening stage of the Tour de France which was held in the White Rose county back in 2014.

Back then, Leeds was the Tour hub with all the build-up, the team presentation and the Grand Depart being held in Leeds.

From September 22-29 next year, the UCI Road World Championships will have a hub in Harrogate, with all races – from men’s road to junior women’s time-trial – finishing in the spa town.

And the expected selection of Leeds as a starting point for one of the main races further demonstrates the city’s capacity to stage huge, global events.

The full routes for all next year’s races will be revealed this evening during the current UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck.

The men’s elite road race on the final Sunday is a 285km stage which culminates in seven laps around Harrogate.

And organisers are promising a true test for the world’s best.

“For the Grand Depart stage 1 who can ever forget the infamous Cavendish moment outside Betty’s,” said Yorkshire 2019 chairman Chris Pilling.

“That was a very challenging circuit. You want enough of a challenge that different things can happen over 285km.

“Yorkshire people know what a true test Yorkshire provides and that’s why the world championships are coming here. What with the Grand Depart, successful Tours de Yorkshire – Yorkshire is becoming a cycling mecca throughout Europe.”

A sprint finish into Harrogate would entice some of the fastest men and women on two wheels, the likes of Mark Cavendish - who will feel he owes Yorkshire one after THAT crash back in 2014 – and Otley’s Lizzie Deignan.

Both of them are absent in Innsbruck this week through illness and the birth of a child, respectively.

But the mountainous route of this year’s races has put off some big names, the likes of Tour de France winners Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome opting to end their season early as opposed to racing a route they know does not suit them.

Yorkshire 2019 organisers were keen not alienate the big names in designing the routes they will reveal tonight.

“Our terrain is hilly and there are significant areas of our national parks which are challenging, but they’re not mountains,” added Pilling. “Innsbruck is a famous mountainous region.

“What we do have is consistent challenges in the routes. The UCI are the guardians of their championships, and we made skilful recommendations because of the expertise we now have in the region through Gary Verity’s team and British Cycling.

“Lots of the riders have been public in their views and expressions of looking forward to coming to Yorkshire because they know the public will come out and support it.”