Leeds, England has "won the race" to host the opening stages of the Tour de France in 2014, according to the YORKSHIRE EVENING POST. After a "hard-fought bid by Welcome to Yorkshire," it has now been confirmed that Leeds will be "the official host city for the opening stages of the world’s biggest annual sporting event." Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield said: “Leeds has a proud racing and riding history, so it will be wonderful to welcome the biggest cycle race of them all to the heart of our vibrant city centre, inspire a new generation of Yorkshire cyclists to compete on the world stage and leave a lasting cycling legacy for the city.” Hosting the first two stages of the race is "expected to generate more than £100M ($161M) for the Yorkshire economy -- and attract over one million spectators" (YEP, 12/14). The YORKSHIRE POST reported Yorkshire has "pulled off its biggest ever sporting coup" as a worldwide TV audience of more than 2 billion viewers will watch. Yorkshire bid leader Gary Verity said, "It’s not just the biggest show on earth, but the biggest free show on earth." (YORKSHIRE POST, 12/15). In London, Bounds & Blitz reported Tour de France organizers Amaury Sport Organisation acknowledged the "growing role of British cycling in the event, which next year marks its centenary, as well as the level of British public support for cycling during the Olympics." ASO said, "After an outstanding 2012 for British cycling, marked by the historical victory of Bradley Wiggins on the Tour de France, the United Kingdom will again hold pride of place in 2014" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 12/14).
A MAJOR COUP: In London, Alex Bath reported the right to host the opening stage of the Tour de France is "a major coup for Yorkshire, boosting its sporting status still farther" after its athletes won five Gold Medals at the London Games, more than any other British county. The peloton "will also visit London on its way to France, seven years after it last came to the capital." It will begin in Yorkshire with two days of competition around Leeds. The peloton will then head to London for a stage, before returning to France. The Tour last visited London during the '07 opening prologue, when 1 million people saw Fabian Cancellara win the opening individiual time trial. There had been "a number of bids" to host the 2014 opening, but a visit to the Tour organisers by the Yorkshire delegation in October "appears to have swung the decision in their favour" (LONDON TIMES, 12/14).