French President François Hollande has given his backing to plans to bring the start of the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2016. President Hollande, who defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in May’s run-off for the presidency, expressed his support in a meeting at the Elysée Palace with Labour leader Ed Milliband, who is MP for Doncaster North.
Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, which is co-ordinating the region’s bid to host the Grand Départ, lobbied hard during this year’s Tour to win over organisers ASO, including sending a delegation over to Liège for the start of the race and placing adverts in L’Equipe as Bradley Wiggins headed towards making history by becoming its first British winner.
"The president was 'very supportive'," Mr Milliband said afterwards, quoted on Telegraph.co.uk. "It would be a good thing for Yorkshire,” he added. “It would be a great thing for my constituency. I am backing Le Bid."
The Telegraph added according to the president’s aides, his support meant that there is a "very realistic prospect" of Yorkshire realising its dream of hosting the start of the race in four years’ time.
The bid, which is competing to host a future Grand Départ not only with cities on the continent but also with the Scottish capital Edinburgh, was formally presented to ASO earlier this year.
The proposed route of the opening two stages would take in cities and towns such as Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, York and Scarborough as well as the region’s spectacular scenery, such as the climb of Sutton Bank (pictured).
Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive, Gary Verity, said: "We have strong cross-party political support within the county to make this happen and now we have the support of President François Hollande, which is great news for our bid.
“Yorkshire is seen by many as the spiritual heartland of cycling in the UK, we have the cycling heritage, we have the champions and we are race ready to host Le Tour.
“It would be an honour to bring the race back to England and host it in our great county and we are working hard to make that happen."
To date, more than 150,000 people have given their support to Yorkshire’s bid through the Back Le Bid website – it only takes seconds to add your own details to express your own backing for it.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.