Tour de France: Sheffield in eyes of the world

World class cycling is coming to Sheffield
World class cycling is coming to Sheffield
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Alistair and Jonny Brownlee believe a big summer of cycling in their native Yorkshire can help keep the Olympic legacy alive and well.

The brothers, who were among the stars of London 2012 with Alistair taking gold and Jonny bronze in the triathlon, grew up running and riding the roads of the White Rose county.

The eyes of the world are going to be trained on those routes when the Tour de France’s Grand Depart arrives on July 5/6, beginning with a stage between Leeds and Harrogate and continuing between York and Sheffield.

The Tour forms the centrepiece of the Dare 2b Yorkshire Festival of Cycling, hosted at the historic Harewood House Estate, and the Brownlees, who act as ambassadors for the event, hope it can inspire in the same way as the Olympics.

“The Tour de France is probably one of the top five sporting events in the world and it’s something we’ve both watched as long as we can remember,” Alistair Brownlee said.

“It’s very exciting to see it starting here on the roads we’ve cycled every day since we were kids and passing less than a mile from our house.

“The Yorkshire Festival of Cycling is about making the most of that legacy, encouraging people to be involved and get out riding.

“That’s an ongoing process. We all saw how popular the Olympics was and how many people were inspired but it’s a bit like a fire that needs a log thrown on every now and again to keep it burning.

“The Olympics was a pretty big log but it needs a prod every so often and it’s fantastic to be doing this in Yorkshire.”

Jonny Brownlee, who finished second in the triathlon world series last year, is equally enthused and believes his home county will lend a new edge to the Tour.

“Yorkshire is perfect cycling country - it has hills and flats and the country roads are a great place to ride,” he added.

“It’s a beautiful place for the Tour but it will be a hard course. It’s full of short, steep hills which is different to France. The Alps and the Pyrenees, which we all see on TV, are all long climbs but Yorkshire is short, sharp and completely different.”

Neither one of the brothers is decided on whether to pursue the World Series title this season, with a minimum requirement of six races across the globe to be in contention.

But one goal that is firmly on their radar is the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“The Commonwealths is the main aim and I want to be part of it,” said Jonny.

“It’s once every four years, I’ve never been part of it before and to represent England would be amazing.”

Alistair, whose ankle injury spoiled his 2013 season, said: “The ankle seems pretty good and has done for a few months now.

“But the world series is difficult to commit to and seems to get more difficult all the time.

“One way to look at it is to target specific events instead and the Commonwealth Games is definitely one of them.”

*Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee are encouraging the nation to get involved in participation events at the Dare 2b Yorkshire Festival of Cycling, which takes place at Harewood House during the Tour de France from July 4-6 2014. See for more details.