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Tour de France may head to Ilkley
Sports stars and politicians are celebrating the “fantastic” news that the opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France will start in Yorkshire.
And hopes are high the prestigious race’s Grand Depart could include a stage through the streets of Ilkley.
Leeds has been named as the host city – beating challenges from Florence and Edinburgh – for the famous cycling challenge.
The tour will head through Yorkshire on July 5 and 6, 2014, before moving south for a finish in London.
Full details of the route will not be announced until January 17 but speculation has already begun that the second stage – York to Sheffield – could incorporate Ilkley and Otley.
The announcement has been hailed by Otley’s silver medal winning Olympic cyclist, Lizzie Armitstead.
On Twitter, she said: “Pretty amazing that the Tour de France will start in Leeds in 2014! Always knew it was the centre of the universe!
“Have to wait and see if it goes through my home town, Otley.”
MP Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) said the decision would give local cycling – already on a high following Lizzie’s success at London 2012 – a further massive boost.
He said: “Otley has cemented itself as a cycling town and a nationally recognised centre for cycling with its annual town-centre bike race, Otley Cycling Festival and Otley Sportive – and, following the success of Lizzie Armitstead at London 2012 – the town’s first ever Olympic medallist.
“The Tour de France coming here would cement this as well as being fantastic for the town and be an incredible opportunity to promote to the 3.5 billion people that watch the race every year everything Otley and the surrounding area has to offer.”
Mr Mulholland, along with fellow Yorkshire MPs Hilary Benn and Julian Smith, worked with Leeds City Council and Welcome to Yorkshire to convince tour organisers to choose the region.
He said: “This is absolutely fantastic news for Yorkshire.
“To have won the bid to be hosting a stage of the Tour de France in the same year as the first ever British winner, Bradley Wiggins, is sensational.
“The Tour de France is one of the biggest and most prestigious sporting events in the world and to think it will be coming through the cities, towns and streets of Yorkshire is so exciting. It will be a huge boost to the local economy, as well as cycling.
“The Back Le Bid team have done a quite superb job and I want to pay tribute to their excellent campaign to show the organisers what Yorkshire has to offer.
“They have achieved something very special and historic that generations will enjoy and treasure.”
Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: “This is great news for the whole of Leeds and I am really hoping Otley will be involved.
“The town’s heritage and commitment to cycling is unrivalled and I feel Otley deserves it.
“After all, we are the region’s premier cycling hotspot.”