The head of the Tour de France has said the recent success of British cyclists is part of the reason the UK – including Sheffield – was chosen to host the start of the famous race in 2014.
Jean-Etienne Amaury, president of the race organiser, ASO, was visiting Yorkshire today, where the opening two stages of next year’s race will be staged.
And he said he has not ruled out the Tour coming back to Britain again in the near future.
Mr Amaury’s visit came as Welcome to Yorkshire, the tourism organisation behind the successful bid to host 2014 Grand Depart, was celebrating securing a pledge of £10 million of Government funding to help stage the event.
He said he was impressed with the ongoing preparations in Yorkshire.
Mr Amaury said: “It looks fantastic so far.
“We expect great enthusiasm here in Yorkshire for the Tour de France.
“We had the Grand Depart in 2007 in London and it was fantastic, the atmosphere was great.
“We expect similar enthusiasm here in Yorkshire.”
And he said the excitement about a British start to the event had even crossed the Channel.
“People in France are similarly excited, because British cycling has been doing extremely well for the past years, and particularly in the past year with Sir Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, so people are very much looking forward to this Grand Depart in Yorkshire.”
But he said British success was just one factor in choosing to bring the Tour to the UK.
He said: “The scenery and the quality of the infrastructure in Yorkshire has been also a very important factor to decide to host the Grand Depart in 2014 here, but how strong British cycling has been over the years has been an important factor, for sure.”
The Tour will come to Yorkshire in July next year, with the first stage going from Leeds to Harrogate and the second from York to Sheffield.
The third stage will move south, starting in Cambridge and finishing on The Mall, in London.
Gary Verity, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive, said preparations were going well and he welcomed the news of a £10m Government cash injection.
He said: “The local authorities are still putting a huge amount of resource into this, but it’s important also we’ve got the bit from central Government now, to mean we can absolutely maximise the event so we have the grandest Grand Depart we can possibly have and the maximum economic impact.
“It ticks a lot of the Government’s boxes in terms of economic growth, in terms of rebalancing the north-south economy and making sure we have a continuing legacy from the London 2012 games.
“We knew it would galvanise the enthusiasm of the cycling fraternity in Yorkshire but it’s gone much wider than that.
“It’s inspired huge swathes of the population of Yorkshire.
“This will be massive for Yorkshire, it will be massive for the north of England. It’s a great thing and we’re so pleased to have this on the back of the 2012 Games.”