Tour dream alive for local cycling stars

SOUTH Yorkshire’s leading cyclists say it is a dream come true that the world’s biggest bike race will start in Yorkshire in 2014.

The Tour de France will have its Grand Depart in Leeds on July 5 2014 but The Star understands that Sheffield could be in line to host the finish to stage two a day later.

Stage three on July 7 will finish in London.

Full route details will be announced in January but there’s no doubt that race organisers, Amaury Sports Organisation, will want to make use of Yorkshire’s most iconic landmarks.

Sheffield, as the most southerly city in the county, may be seen as the perfect final destination for the race before it heads towards the capital.

The announcement yesterday has come as a boost to Rotherham’s Ben Swift, who rode in the 2011 Tour. Team Sky rider Swift said: “This news is going to take cycling to another level in the UK.

“You only have to see the crowds that turned out in London in 2007 when the Tour started there, and cycling has boomed in the country since then.

“The crowds at the Olympics road races were absolutely phenomenal and I’m sure that will be the case again in 2014.

“Yorkshire has got lots of places that are absolutely perfect for cycling and it would be one of the highlights of my career if I was able to take part in the 2014 Tour.”

Former Team Sky star Russell Downing, also from Rotherham, who now rides for NetApp Endura, said it’d be a dream come true if he was able to take part: “The Tour de France coming to Yorkshire in 2014 is like a dream come true. Cycling has always been my life so to see the race come to Yorkshire is amazing.

“Who knows, I’ll maybe even get the chance to ride in it. It’s never too late.”

Downing’s brother Dean, himself a former professional, has been part of the Welcome to Yorkshire team that has brought the world’s biggest annual sporting event to the county.

He said: “Having the biggest bike race in the world coming to our home county of Yorkshire is going to be an amazing event for me.

“Supporting the winning bid Welcome to Yorkshire and looking at some of the proposed routes it may take in 2014 it makes me proud to be a Yorkshireman.”