Bernard Hinault, five times a winner of the Tour de France, says that the passion of the people of Leeds over the visit of cycling’s biggest race to the city next year has touched his heart, reports the Yorkshire Evening Post.
The rider nicknamed “the Badger,” one of only four men to have won the race five times, was visiting the city with race director Christian Prudhomme ahead of its staging the Grand Départ of the 101st edition next year, says the newspaper, which has video of the visit on its website.
The pair visited three schools in Leeds along with Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, and afterwards Hinault said: “The passion for the Tour from the people of Yorkshire is fantastic. It touches our heart.”
The three schools included in the visit were Carr Manor Community School, Brigshaw High School and Language College, and Kippax North Primary School.
A cycling club began at the latter school following Team GB’s success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and proved so successful that within a year, pupils had raised £3,000 and secured grants to enable them to build a track around the school’s playing field.
“We’ve had such a warm welcome from the children and from the school. Every time I come to Yorkshire I have a smile on my face and even more so today,” said Prudhomme.
The Tour de France boss added that he was happy with the way preparations are going for next year’s Grand Départ, which will see Leeds host the build-up to the race and the Start of Stage 1 on Saturday 5 July, which will finish in Harrogate.
The following day sees a tough stage from York to Sheffield, then the race moves out of Yorkshire with Stage 3 from Cambridge to London on Monday 7 July before the race heads across the English Channel to continue in France.
“Many things are ongoing,” said Prudhomme. “The teams are on the routes for Stage 1 and 2 and are working hard.
“We’re very excited about those stages. I’m very confident in Yorkshire. I think it would be ready this June, not only next year.”
Welcome to Yorkshire’s Verity, who led the team that saw off rival bids from cities including Edinburgh and Florence to win the right to host the race, said: “Things are progressing incredibly well. Christian is pleased with how things are developing.
“A lot of his team have been over to analyse the route in fine detail, they’ve analysed the facilities, and they’ve all gone back to Christian in Paris and given him glowing reports.
“So we are well set, but we are not complacent. There’s a lot of hard work to come but we are in good shape.”
You can find out more information on the 2014 Grand Départ on Le Tour Yorkshire website.