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Cycling: 2014 Tour to further boost British cycling

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

With the 100th Tour de France about to get underway on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, the start of next year's race is not on the minds of many.

However, the organisers behind the 2014 Grand Depart in Yorkshire, in northern England, are very much looking forward as they get ready to make their own bit of Tour history.

The Tour has visited the British Isles three times before, most recently in 2007, when it set off from London.

Now it is the turn of Yorkshire, which contains major cities like Leeds and Sheffield as well as the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales and the Pennines, "the backbone of England".

"It is the biggest event that will ever have happened in Yorkshire," Welcome to Yorkshire Chief Executive Gary Verity told AFP.

"The biggest annual sporting event in the world, not only the greatest, the longest, the hardest, the toughest cycle race in the world, but the biggest free-to-watch sporting event on the planet. For us, it will be a very proud moment."

The 2014 Tour will begin with a flat stage from Leeds to Harrogate on July 5 before a ride from York to Sheffield through the hills of the Peak District.

There will then be a third stage in England from the university city of Cambridge to London before the race returns to France.

Verity agreed that the recent success of British cycling, from Bradley Wiggins' triumph on the 2012 Tour de France to the country's track triumphs at the London Olympics helped bring the race back to the UK and should help create a successful legacy for the region.

"The tremendous success of British cycling has I think taken cycling to a new level in the UK which makes it more conceivable to put a successful bid together for a Grand Depart," he said.

"Without that, it would have been very difficult for sure. Clearly, Bradley Wiggins' success last year was tremendous for us in terms of timing, and then obviously with the success of the Olympics it became clear that there was a sensible conversation to be had about the Tour coming to the UK quite quickly, which has now happened.

"Yorkshire will continue to get a payback from this event for many, many, many years to come," he said of his hopes for a successful legacy in a country which has gone cycling mad in recent times.

"How do you put a price on the inspiration this can give to children? The fact that you as a child could be stood on the side of the road in Yorkshire when the world's greatest sporting event comes right past where you are. It's huge."

Verity is therefore keeping his fingers crossed that Chris Froome can follow in the footsteps of Wiggins and become the second consecutive Briton to win the famed yellow jersey.

"Obviously, if Froome wins this year's Tour, to have two Brits winning it back-to-back would give us a huge fillip for our event next summer," he added.

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