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Big spend for “the very Grandest of Grand Départs”

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has announced today that government will provide up to £10 million in funding to help host the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France in Yorkshire and the third stage from Cambridge to London.

Mr Robertson said: “The Tour de France is the biggest event in cycling and for this country to host the Grand Départ is a real honour. We want to help deliver a world class event that boosts all the local economies where the race will pass through, and encourage more people to get involved in cycling.”

The total cost of the UK leg of next year’s Tour de France will be £21 million, according to a Commons answer from Mr Robertson on June 20.

The 2014 Tour de France will start in Leeds on Sunday July 5 with a stage that pops into the Yorkshire Dales and finishes in Harrogate. The following day riders set off from York and head into the Pennines for the hilliest of the three stages that ends in Sheffield. They then transfer to Cambridge for the start of stage three, which will finish in London on The Mall.

Mr Robertson also announced the creation of a new organising committee, TDF 2014 Ltd, to deliver the three stages of the Grand Départ.

TDF 2014 Ltd will have a board that includes representation from Yorkshire and Cambridge local authorities, as well as British Cycling, Transport for London and UK Sport. The board will be chaired by Sir Rodney Walker, the former chair of UK Sport and will also include Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Keith Wakefield and Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity.

The last time the UK hosted the start of the Tour de France was in 2007, when the race kicked off with a prologue in Westminster, and then made its way to Canterbury.

Those two stages are reported to have cost between £5 million and £10.5 million depending on the source. Transport for London’s Grand Départ 2007 Research Summary mentions an organisational spend of £5 million. Ealing Conservative councillor Phil Taylor says Transport for London eventually told him the figure was £10.5 million after some badgering. Transport for London claimed some £73 million in economic benefit from the 2007 Grand Départ.

The higher cost of the 2014 Grand Départ will come from the greater scale of the event - three stages instead of two - and the greater complexity of three full road closures rather than 2007’s city centre time trial loop and London to Canterbury dash.

The six years since 2007 have seen a huge increase in the profile and popularity of cycling, with two British Tour de France winners and huge Olympic medal hauls at Beijing and London. It’s conceivable that this has emboldened organisers to plan and budget for what Gary Verity has called “the very Grandest of Grand Départs”.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.