This year’s edition hasn’t even started yet, but the PR machine behind 2014’s Tour de France – with the Grand Départ and three stages in the UK – has rolled into action this week.
Legendary French cyclist Bernard Hinault, five time winner of and now ambassador for Le Tour, joined TdF director Christian Prudhomme in Leeds – the location of 2014’s Grand Départ. They were escourted to three city schools to see how local schoolchildren had been inspired by the news the race was coming to the city in July 2014.
Children at Kippax North Primary, Brigshaw High School and Language School, and Carr Manor Community School had chance to quiz Hinault and show off their cycle proficiency skills while presentations showed how the schools are preparing for the arrival of the world’s largest annual sporting event.
It is estimated that 98 per cent of the population of Yorkshire will be within an hour of the route during its two days in the county, with the economic benefit expected to be in excess of £100m.
As the Yorkshire Post points out, despite the estimated economic benefits, there are some current funding wrangles behind the UK section of the 2014 Tour. The Treasury has stumped up £10m with the condition that Welcome to Yorkshire reviews its plans and doesn’t squander the cash.
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Director of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme said: “We brought Le Tour to Yorkshire because behind ‘Back le Bid’ there was a real desire to welcome the Tour and we have seen that passion and pride today at every school we have visited.
“To think that we are already inspiring the next generation of cycling fans in the UK makes me proud that we made the right decision to host the Grand Départ in Yorkshire in 2014.”
Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield said: “We are very proud and honoured to welcome a true cycling legend and Tour de France great Bernard Hinault to Leeds. Bernard is a real hero to any fan of cycling and the Tour de France like myself, and we are delighted he has taken the time to visit our city and to get a feel for how excited we are to be hosting the Grand Départ of next year’s race.
“In particular I am pleased he and Christian are getting to meet lots of our young people on their visit, as a key element of the wonderful event to come next summer is the long-term legacy for cycling in Leeds and Yorkshire which is going to make it even more special.”
Chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Gary Verity said: “A key part of our legacy plans for the Grand Départ is to inspire the next generation; Christian and Bernard have seen today that their world-famous race is already doing that and we are over a year away from waving the riders off from Leeds city centre. This is just the start of what promises to be an era-defining moment for the people of Yorkshire.
"We are delighted that Christian and Bernard were able to witness first-hand the enthusiasm, passion and pride children of Yorkshire have for being able to say they are hosting the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.”
Headteacher of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Otley Cecilia Knight, whose pupils took part in the visit at Carr Manor Community School, said: “Our children are so excited that ‘Le Tour’ will be coming through Otley and they were delighted to have been included in the opportunity to meet the delegation in Leeds today.
“We have lots of very keen cyclists at St Joseph’s and meeting Bernard Hinault will be something they will always remember.”