LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Team BMC and Sky set the pace for the pack during the seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 199 kilometers (123.6 miles) with start in Tomblaine and finish in La Planche des Belles Filles in France on July 7. AP photo
The county of Yorkshire is aiming to host the opening stages or “Grand Depart” of the 2016 Tour de France.
Arguably the world’s most famous cycle race, and one of France’s greatest sporting events, the Tour has started abroad several times and this year got underway in Liege, Belgium. Five years ago it began in England for the first time with a prologue in London and then a time-trial from London to the south-eastern city of Canterbury.
That visit, and previous Tour stops in England in 1974 and 1994, have tended to concentrate on the south coast, the closest part of the country to France and now served by the Channel Tunnel rail link.
But going to Yorkshire would mean a trip to the north of England.
However, the Yorkshire team, as well as proposing to hold two legs in the county that boasts some of England’s most scenic countryside as well as the Dales, a series of hills, is also looking to stage another part of the race in southern England.
This, they maintain, would enable the Tour to ensure riders and teams are back in France soon after the finish, preventing any need for rest days.
Mark Cavendish, who last year became the first British rider to win the Tour’s green jersey is among those backing the Yorkshire bid.
“My Mum is from Yorkshire so I’m proud to be backing the Yorkshire 2016 bid,” he said. “The county would provide a stunning backdrop to the Tour as well as a real test for the competitors.
“I have fond memories of holidaying in Yorkshire, a lot of my family still live there and it would be fantastic if the world’s greatest cycle race could come to Yorkshire, I’m sure it would host a stunning Grand Depart.” On Monday, the Tour came to the eastern French
town of Besancon, which has a cycling conection of its own with Yorkshire.
Besancon is twinned with the Yorkshire town of Kirklees, the birthplace of Brian Robinson, the first British rider to complete the Tour, in 1955. Three years later, he also became the first Briton to win a Tour stage.