Mark Cavendish, winner of 20 Tour de France stages including an unprecedented three-in-a-row on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, as well as the green jersey this year, has given his backing to plans bring the Grand Départ of cycling’s biggest race to Yorkshire in 2016.
In May this year, it was revealed that a delegation led by local tourism authority Welcome To Yorkshire had met with representatives of Tour organisers ASO to put forward plans to hold the first two days of the 2015 Tour in the county, following the success of the 2007 Grand Départ in London.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, the Manxman, who has yet to reveal which team he will be riding for next season following the break-up of his current HTC-Highroad squad revealed that he has close family ties to what, going by its historical borders, is England’s biggest county.
“My mum is from Yorkshire so I’m proud to be backing the Yorkshire 2016 bid,” Cavendish revealed. “The region 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 Départ,” he added.
Yorskshire already has some ties to the Tour. The man Cavendish overtook to become Britain’s most successful Tour de France rider in terms of stage wins, Barry Hoban, is from Yorkshire, while Huddersfield’s Brian Robinson won stages in the race in 1958 and 1959.
Yorkshirermen currently riding at the top level of the sport include Team Sky’s Russ Downing and Ben Swift, both from Rotherham.
The proposed route of two days’ racing of a 2016 Grand Départ in Yorkshire would include the cities of Leeds, York, Hull and Sheffield, as well as the spectacular scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, and the coast around Scarborough.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, told the Yorkshire Post: “To have Mark’s backing for our bid is massive. We are serious about bringing Le Grand Départ to Yorkshire and giving the French a warm Yorkshire welcome.
“The county is passionate about sport and would be thrilled to host the most celebrated cycle race in the world.”
The Tour de France has visited the UK three times, but the London Grand Départ four years ago is the only time it has actually started here, with huge crowds turning out to watch Fabian Cancellara win the Prologue in London.
The following day, Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen won a road stage to Canterbury, the very first road stage that Cavendish took part him, although a crash 25 kilometres out put paid to his chances of a win on home soil.
The race had visited Britain twice before that, with Holland’s Henk Poppe winning a stage that started and finished in Plymouth, while in 1994, Spanish rider Francisco Cabello won Stage 4 from Dover and Brighton, with Italy’s Nicola Minali winning Stage 5 in Portsmouth.
The Tour de France staged its first foreign Grand Départ in The Netherlands in 1954, and nowadays it tends to start abroad every two or three years, with no shortage of candidate cities and regions.
Scotland is also hoping to host the Grand Départ, while other locations vying to stage the start of the race and reap the benefits of the boost to tourism it brings include Barcelona, Florence, Krakow and Qatar.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.