Tour de France 2014: Cambridge to London via...?

Speculation over how cycling's biggest race will get to London... and we look at the case for Olympic Park stage finish

by Simon_MacMichael   January 3, 2013  

Wiggins riding Arc de Triomphe

With just 18 months until the 2014 Tour de France begins in Yorkshire, which hosts the opening two stages, speculation is beginning over where the biggest race in cycling might pass through when Stage 3 of the race takes place on Monday 8 July. That stage is strongly tipped to start in Cambridge, and has been reported as finishing on The Mall in Central London, as the Olympic road races did this summer – although there is a case to be made for it to finish at the Olympic Park itself.

Full details of the 2013 Grand Départ are due to be announced at a press conference in Paris on 17 January. However, last year, as Yorkshire vied with a Scottish led bid that would have seen the race begin in Edinburgh before heading south through England via Wales to the Channel ports, it emerged that Cambridge had been brought on board as part of the Yorkshire bid, potentially hosting the finish of a stage.

Of course, that won’t now happen – after the race leaves Yorkshire, Stage 3 is confirmed as finishing in London – but what that does mean is that Cambridge is firmly in the running to host the stage start.

When Yorkshire was announced as the successful bidder last month, Fabrice Tiano, a spokesman for Tour organisers ASO, was non-committal, telling Cambridge News only that the decision did not “mean anything from one side or the other for Cambridge’s bid.”

Peter Dodd of Welcome to Yorkshire, which organised the bid, said, “It’s too early to tell whether the tour will pass by Cambridge, but it’s certainly not bad news.”

In truth, in both cases that’s probably as much as they could have said given the way ASO usually announces the Grand Départ, which is to initially reveal the city that will host the build-up to the race and the start of the first stage – in this case, Leeds – with further details given only at a subsequent press conference.

Cambridge’s aspirations to host the race would also be boosted by its status as the city in Britain with by far the highest levels of regular cycling, as well as being a world-renowned tourist destination.

Moreover, while not on the most direct route from Yorkshire to London, it isn’t that far out of the way and is within striking distance from an expected Stage 2 finish in Sheffield.

It’s around 90 kilometres from Cambridge to the heart of the capital by the most direct route, but an opening week stage of the Tour would be likely to be around twice that distance, perhaps more.

So a looping itinerary that took it through Suffolk towards the coast then back through North Essex towards London could provide exciting racing, particularly if the wind came into play, as well as showcasing the region’s scenery. Regular hosting of stages of the Tour of Britain in the area won’t harm its case either.

Certainly one newspaper in Essex, the Halstead Gazette, believes that the Tour is coming to Cambridge, and that Braintree could figure on the route on its way to the capital.

Assuming Stage 3 starts in Cambridge, why should it finish at the Olympic Park, or the Queen Elizabeth II Park as it will then be known, rather than the Mall?

First, Stratford is on the right side of town for an approach from the north east, and following this Summer’s drama, the Olympic Park – although some structures will have disappeared – is now an iconic venue in its own right.

Unlike the Olympic road races, stages of the Tour of Britain when it visits the capital or indeed the 2007 Grand Départ of the Tour de France itself, Stage 3 of next year’s race takes place on a weekday.

That means there will be a desire not least from Transport for London to minimise disruption, and as was demonstrated during the Olympic Games, Stratford, the gateway to the Olympic Park, can cope with a huge influx of visitors.

There’s also ample space to not only host the finish area and circus that accompanies the Tour, but also the cycling festival that would almost certainly accompany the race’s next visit to the British capital.

With the Olympic Park also hosting the inaugural RideLondon event this August – the Classic race starts there although it finishes in Central London - there’s a chance to have a dress rehearsal of sorts.

Perhaps most compellingly, nearby Stratford International station means that within a short time of a stage finishing, riders could be on board a train and heading to France more quickly than if they had to go from Central London to St Pancras.

Eurostar trains don’t currently stop at Stratford but can do so, and could reach Calais in less than an hour and Lille in 80 minutes or so. The time savings compared to the St Pancras option aren’t huge, but they could swing it, and there would be no chance of getting snarled up in London traffic.

Counting against the Olympic Park, of course, would be a desire for the stage to showcase as many of Central London’s landmarks as possible, and certainly The Mall seems widely tipped as the finish.

Also, there’s the fact that given the anticipated numbers of fans who would want to get a glimpse of the Tour, dispersal afterwards to all points of the compass would be easier from a Central London location.

But we reckon there’s a compelling case for the Olympic Park to once again be the centre of the sporting world, if only for an afternoon. In a fortnight’s time, we’ll find out whether our hunch is correct.

 

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York will almost certainly figure, although impossible to tell whether it will be a stage town yet... we'll find out for sure in a couple of weeks. With no Prologue, it would be unusual to have a road stage start and finish in the same place though.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7480 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 11:50

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Bawtry was rumoured as a stage finish, but I think that was just wishful thinking by locals...

posted by nivagh [53 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 12:15

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Wor Lass who like me is very excited re the Leeds Grand Depart, was born in Leeds....... On January 17th!!!!!! Surprise

onward ever onward

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posted by bikecellar [218 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 12:19

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joemmo wrote:
re: "expected stage 2 finish in Sheffield" - so the current rumoured plan is a start and finish in Leeds for Stage 1, then from Leeds to Sheffield in stage 2? Or from Leeds to X in stage 1?

Leeds to Whitby for Stage 1 then York to Sheffield for Stage 2 is what I saw on a map...

...in The Sun so it must be true Big Grin

posted by Captain Beaky [29 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 12:32

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bikecellar wrote:
Wor Lass who like me is very excited re the Leeds Grand Depart, was born in Leeds....... On January 17th!!!!!! Surprise

Same birthday as my missus then... she was born a long way from Leeds, mind Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7480 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 12:46

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The time difference between St. Pancras an Stratford is about 7 minutes. Barely a reason to despatch trains from Stratford when there is possibility to showcase one of the most beautiful stations in the country ( and actual Eurostar terminus).

posted by londonbrick [24 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 12:48

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I'm expecting the route of any stage starting/finishing in Leeds to head through Morley (which is pretty close to be fair) thanks to links with Beryl Burton. As one of Britain's most successful ever cyclists I expect Morley to be included in some form. Huddersfield too if they want to link in more of Yorkshire's cycling and TdF heritage with Britain's first TdF stage winner, Brian Robinson, coming from Huddersfield.

If both of those are included I'd expect the race to head south from Leeds to Morley then through to Huddersfield before looping back north via Skipton possibly then towards the coast through t'moors.

Other than that all I can think is that the race might loop north from Leeds through the likes of Otley/Harrogate/Ripon to take in some lumpy roads and some nice scenery before heading east towards the coast and through the moors.

Whatever the route, the scenery will be stunning and with a bumpy route I think stage one will be a great stage for a breakaway, maybe even set up for a break to win, especially given that it's not exactly flat around Whitby.

posted by drheaton [3350 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 12:48

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so I suppose they could head north out of Leeds into the dales or NE to the moors then loop to York. Would be a shame not to get into the national parks.

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posted by joemmo [692 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 12:56

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Its going to be fun wherever it goes Wink Given the logistics of the tour, the cyclo park even if it only adds a little is something surely? However magnificent the St Pancras station, coaches will get on the Eursostar faster from Stratford Id have thought? Maybe do a finishing lap on the 'new' road circuit at the cyclopark... Big Grin LOL

Ah, but that was then

posted by Pitstone Peddler [104 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 13:12

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Stage 2's the one that I'm waiting to hear about. Especially if they drop into Sheffield via Holme Moss and the Peak District.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

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posted by badback [255 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 13:14

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londonbrick wrote:
The time difference between St. Pancras an Stratford is about 7 minutes. Barely a reason to despatch trains from Stratford when there is possibility to showcase one of the most beautiful stations in the country ( and actual Eurostar terminus).

Yes, but the Stratford International station is right next to the Olympic Park, so there are additional potential savings. Certainly the riders wouldn't be bothered about what the station looks like... they'll just want to get the journey over and get to their hotel, wherever it may be.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7480 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 13:28

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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
londonbrick wrote:
The time difference between St. Pancras an Stratford is about 7 minutes. Barely a reason to despatch trains from Stratford when there is possibility to showcase one of the most beautiful stations in the country ( and actual Eurostar terminus).

Yes, but the Stratford International station is right next to the Olympic Park, so there are additional potential savings. Certainly the riders wouldn't be bothered about what the station looks like... they'll just want to get the journey over and get to their hotel, wherever it may be.

Can you load coaches too at Stratford?

Ah, but that was then

posted by Pitstone Peddler [104 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 13:44

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Holmfirth and then up Holme Moss please!

I'm a human being, God damn it! My life has value. I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.

posted by Carl [134 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 13:49

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Although this article is basically unsubstantiated speculation, I'm still very exited Big Grin . The peleton must be looking forward to it being perfectly acceptable to smoke and text their mates whilst riding on the pavement of this fair city

posted by Thecambridgerocket [6 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 15:17

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The lorries and coaches can only get on trains at Folkstone; the tunnel Shuttle trains for road vehicles are too big even for the generously built channel tunnel rail link (HS1). There's definitely no way of getting a road vehicle to a train in Stratford (the station's in a deep hole) but then St Pancras isn't set out to allow vehicles (other than small service ones) to the platforms either.

Potentially you could use more standard European rolling stock, such as that used to carry road vehilces on rail lines through the Alps, but that doesn't have safety clearence for the tunnel and the site for any suitable terminal would be out in Dagenham.

posted by Al__S [419 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 15:19

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Pitstone Peddler wrote:
Can you load coaches too at Stratford?

Think they'd have to go by road to Folkestone then get loaded there. Not unusual for riders to go separately, eg Giro transfer Denmark to Verona last year.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7480 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 15:20

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Thecambridgerocket wrote:
Although this article is basically unsubstantiated speculation...

Exactly Wink But speculation's fun Smile

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7480 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 15:23

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Sprint finish on Platform 10? Big Grin Its going to be a good couple of days anyway!

Ah, but that was then

posted by Pitstone Peddler [104 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 15:23

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As said, Stratford International is a strictly pedestrian station only. The coaches/vans of bikes and all the cars would need to go down to Folkestone to get on what used to be called Le Shuttle.

However, the Olympic Park *is* big, wide, open, very easily accessible by large numbers of visitors, and in 2014 will be more or less completely transformed into its post-Games state. On a weekday it's probably the ideal location for a stage finish in London. And speaking as someone who lives near Epping Forest (the obvious route for the ride to take in through the suburbs) I'm excited already.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [642 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 16:41

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yeah, bit of speculation never hurt. I've already provisionally booked the time off with domestic management, planning to travel down from Tyneside to some convenient base in the area and ride to a spectating point on one or more days.

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posted by joemmo [692 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 16:47

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Lots of lovely countryside between Cambridge and London, whatever the route. Living in Cambridge, I can't imagine them starting here, because if I did I'd get too excited and have a stroke, or something.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1301 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 17:56

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londonbrick wrote:
The time difference between St. Pancras an Stratford is about 7 minutes. Barely a reason to despatch trains from Stratford when there is possibility to showcase one of the most beautiful stations in the country ( and actual Eurostar terminus).

Well, we did a lot of thinking about this and we're fairly certain it will be Cambridge - there are rumours flying around and they all seem to be coming from the same part of the country which suggests that someone knows something.

And if it is Cambridge to London would even Boris route the Tour de France through central London, or even it's fringes, during a Monday evening rush hour. The Olympic Park gives the Tour exactly what it needs with a purpose built iconic finish with an easy out too. The riders can hop on the Eurostar afterwards and their support vehicles can go straight down the A102, through the Blackwall Tunnel, and in a pretty much straight line to Folkestone.

Course it'll probably end up being Oxford to London now Wink

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4111 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 20:11

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tony_farrelly wrote:
Course it'll probably end up being Oxford to London now Wink

Yes please Smile

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7480 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 20:41

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Stratford International is rather uninspiring as a train station. With a view of a car park. The departure back to France has to be St Pancras for the riders.

posted by onlyonediane [158 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 21:00

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Be it Stratford or the Mall, I reckon I'll be making the attempt to crush my way onto the trains to be able to see the start AND finish. Lets hope some extras are laid on!

posted by Al__S [419 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 21:20

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Al__S wrote:
Be it Stratford or the Mall, I reckon I'll be making the attempt to crush my way onto the trains to be able to see the start AND finish. Lets hope some extras are laid on!

Ha ha ha ha - can't see what passes for local train companies "first capitulated disconnect" and "grunter awfuller" running extra trains. I think you would do better to bet on a ban on bikes on trains - like first already do for the London-Brighton event - and closure of the Cambridge station cycle parking and cycleways for... Let's say security reasons.

Wonder if anyone will run coaches...

posted by a.jumper [654 posts]
3rd January 2013 - 22:53

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nivagh wrote:
Bawtry was rumoured as a stage finish, but I think that was just wishful thinking by locals...

Would be interesting given that it's a stone's throw from Tom Simpson's resting place. From a selfish point of view, I'm from just down the road in Tickhill and my dad still lives there, so I'd be all in favour!

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posted by Ghedebrav [802 posts]
4th January 2013 - 0:45

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onlyonediane wrote:
Stratford International is rather uninspiring as a train station. With a view of a car park. The departure back to France has to be St Pancras for the riders.

Last time I checked the riders' travel between stages wasn't televised Big Grin I'm sure it'll be fine.

They probably visit some pretty "uninspiring" rural French stations too.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [642 posts]
4th January 2013 - 15:19

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Seems like a bit of a waste, to spend a third of the total time allotted to Britain riding through Essex, to finish at the former site of the world's biggest MacDonalds. I understand ASO's desire to return to London, for commercial reasons. But surely, if you are going to the trouble of starting so far north, probably for the only time for decades to come, you might as well do a decent job of seeing all that Yorkshire has to offer. And that takes more than two days. I'd have rather seen the third day race through the Moors then finish in Hull, to catch the overnight ferry.

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
5th January 2013 - 20:09

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Well, I'd be very happy to see it start in Cambridge seeing as I live there but we'll have to wait and see. Suffolk is very pleasant to cycle in and I often go down that way when I have some time; probably a little hillier than the area around Royston previously mentioned. Great it's coming to England again though!!

posted by Alan Tullett [1293 posts]
6th January 2013 - 22:01

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