Cycling: Tour route has Swift’s name written all over it

Class act: Rotherham's Ben Swift is one of Britain's top cyclists
Class act: Rotherham's Ben Swift is one of Britain's top cyclists

THE man who helped design the Tour de France stage route that will end in Sheffield says it could produce a local winner.

Rotherham cyclist Dean Downing provided advice to bid leaders Welcome to Yorkshire and race organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) before the course was unveiled yesterday.

Downing, who is a close friend of Team Sky rider Ben Swift and brother to professional Russ Downing, thinks it will suit someone with strong local knowledge.

The hilly course also fits the bill for someone like Rotherham’s Swift, who likes a few tough climbs to string out the peloton before using his sprint finish to power clear close to the line.

Downing said: “I was lucky enough to be working with Welcome to Yorkshire last year backing the bid and I was asked to look at some of the routes that they were proposing and give them to ASO and Christian Prudhomme (the Tour’s race director). So this is the route I rode back in August. I’ve had to keep it quiet, which wasn’t easy!

“It’s good, it’s all on our local training roads where Swifty and Russ (Downing) train. It’ll be great coming into Sheffield. I think it will suit him (Swifty). It’s like Russ and Swifty wrote it.”

The 2014 Tour will begin in Leeds on July 5 with the first stage finishing in Harrogate after a ride around the Yorkshire Dales.

Stage Two on July 6 begins in York before making the 200 kilometre cycle to Sheffield via Knaresborough, Silsden, Keighley, Haworth, Hebden Bridge, Huddersfield and Holmfirth.

Coming into Sheffield the world’s greatest riders will pass close to Stocksbridge, Bradfield and Hillsborough among others.

The exact details of the route are being discussed today with Prudhomme visiting the Town Hall to meet representatives from the council and the city’s major sports events unit.

The Star understands it will pass close to Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium and go up Herries Road before dropping down to the lower Don Valley.

A finishing point will be decided by April. A city centre venue would be the preference but logistics may make a site closer to Sheffield Arena a more suitable option.

Wherever the race ends one British cycling legend is prepared to say Swift has an outstanding chance of taking the stage victory.

Brian Robinson, from Huddersfield, now aged 82, was the first Briton to finish the Tour de France in 1955 and the first to win a stage in 1958.

He said: “The second day will be Swifty’s day. If he isn’t trying (for the win) that day then I’ll eat my cap as we say in Yorkshire.”

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