World's most prestigious race to return to UK...

Yorkshire has been awarded the Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France, the first time the North of England has hosted the race. The first two stages will take place in Yorkshire followed by a third in the South of England, finishing in London, before heading across the Channel to France. Full details will be revealed at press conferences to be jointly held in Leeds and Paris on 17 January.

It's the fourth time cycling's biggest race has come to the UK - the last was when London hosted the Grand Depart in 2007 - and the Yorkshire bid saw off a competing one that would have seen the event start in Edinburgh before heading south through England and Wales to the Channel.

The inclusion of that third stage in the South of England within the Yorkshire plans is likely to have been a response to that. Previously, the Yorkshire bid focused on two stages within the county itself, starting in Leeds and also taking in places such as Sheffield, Hull, York and Scarborough as well as some of the region's spectacular scenery.

Leeds will be host the build-up to the race, which will start on 5 July 2014, and Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said: “We are honoured that Leeds has been chosen to be the host city of the 2014 Grand Départ.

"Leeds has a proud racing and riding history so it will be wonderful to welcome the biggest cycle race of them all to the heart of our vibrant city centre, inspire a new generation of Yorkshire cyclists to compete on the world stage and leave a lasting cycling legacy for the city.”

The bid was co-ordinated by Welcome to Yorkshire, which launched a major PR offensive during this year's race, won of course by Bradley WIggins, including putting full-page adverts in L'Equipe.

The agency's chief executive, Gary Verity, said: Today is a proud day for everyone involved in the bid and the county as a whole. We are honoured that the race organisers, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), have selected Yorkshire to be the host location of the 2014 Grand Départ.

“It will mean less than two years after hosting the Olympics the British public can look forward to another of the world’s biggest sporting events coming to the country, and I am in no doubt they will come to Yorkshire in their millions, lining the length and breadth of the route to cheer on the champions of world cycling and our home grown British heroes.

“Yorkshire is a passionate county of proud people and I am sure they will guarantee that their Grand Départ raises the bar in terms of expectations for all future hosts to come.”

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme commented: “Since the resounding success of the Grand Départ in London in 2007, we were very keen to return to the United Kingdom.

"Bradley Wiggins’ historical victory last July and the enormous crowds that followed the cycling events in the streets of London during the Olympic Games encouraged us to go back earlier than we had initially planned.

"Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breathtaking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves.

"We have encountered a phenomenal desire from the Yorkshire team to welcome the Tour de France and have no doubt that passion and support will be particularly evident for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014.”

That competing Scottish-led bid, unlike the Yorkshire one, had the support of British Cycling. However, the organisation's president, Brian Cookson, welcomed the prospect of the race returning to Great Britain.

"Like every other cycling fan, I am thrillled the world's biggest bike race is coming back to this country," he said.

"The huge numbers who turned out to support the 2007 Grand Depart and the London 2012 road races show the passion we have for cycling.

"I'm sure Yorkshire will give the 2014 Tour de France a welcome which will stand out in the race's rich history."

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.