Tour de France

Cav: Leeds to outshine London

2014-07-03 21:03
Mark Cavendish (AFP)

Paris - The county of Yorkshire will put on a better show than London managed seven years ago when the Tour de France begins in Leeds on Saturday, British sprint ace Mark Cavendish said.

Although the Leeds city centre has been slow to embrace the imminent departure of the world's greatest bicycle race, Cavendish says he has noticed the excitement build around the county.

"The type of support, not just in Yorkshire, but from the whole United Kingdom we've had for this 'Grand Depart' is just phenomenal," he said.

"We came here some weeks ago to recon (appraise) the courses, and the vibe that was around us for the Grand Depart was phenomenal, it was like something I've never seen.

"People who lived the Tour de France in 2007 when it started in London still talk about it being an exceptional Grand Depart but I'm sure Yorkshire's going to outdo that," he added.

"I really think everybody here still won't be able to anticipate how big it's going to be at the weekend and I'm fully looking forward to it to savour."

One local farmer near Harrogate, where Saturday's first stage ends, has painted his sheep in the colours of the famous Tour jerseys -- yellow, green and polkadot (red dots on white).

Leeds city centre has some indications that the Tour is coming with a huge banner draped down the front of the Town Hall, while the famous statue of the Black Prince (Edward of Woodstock) outside the post office is now wearing a yellow jersey.

The city was also hosting the biggest ever team presentation opening ceremony at the Leeds Arena on Thursday evening.

Organisers have been criticised for the high price of tickets, costing a minimum of 45 ($77, 56.50 euros), but they say it will be worth it.

Local government has fully embraced its opportunity as Welcome to Yorkshire announced that a provisional deal had been reached with British Cycling and Tour organisers to create a new world class cycle race in Yorkshire, which is now just awaiting approval from the sport's global governing body the UCI.

The inaugural tour of "God's own County", as locals like to trumpet their region, is set for May 1-3, 2015.

- Battle to the end -

As for this year's Tour, many believe it will be a two-horse race between Froome and former two-time winner Alberto Contador.

But the Team Sky man says other rivals such as Italian Vincenzo Nibali or American pair Tejay Van Garderen and Andrew Talansky will have their say.

"I think Alberto has shown he's definitely in a much more competitive position this year than he was last year," added Froome.

"His run-up to the Tour de France has certainly been a lot smoother, he's managed to get a lot more results in early season than he did last year.

"As with a lot of my main rivals and the main contenders here, everyone seems to have upped their game and again we're going to be looking forward to a really exciting Tour this year, and it's going to be a battle all the way to the end."

Team Sky have won the race the last two years, first with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and then Froome 12 months later.

Team Principal Dave Brailsford said that won't make it any easier to win this year, though.

"It's hard every year but the great thing about this race and the reason why a lot of us love this race is it's different every year," he said.

"It's a different challenge every year and so the nature of the course, the nature of the route, how many time-trials, how many hilltop finishes, cobbles, no cobbles, team time-trials, no team time-trial, etc, etc, makes it a different challenge every year."

The cobbles in particular have got many people excited about the fifth stage that borrows some of the famous Paris-Roubaix course.

That is a potential pitfall where the Tour could be lost, although not won.

The difference is likely to be made in the mountains or the penultimate stage 54km time-trial.

There are five summit finishes over six mountain stages while another five other hilly stages could see time won or lost.

The Tour won't just be about the racing, though, as it will pass through places such as Ypres, Belgium, and Verdun, scenes of some of the worst fighting of World War I, coming 100 years after the start of the Great War and amid commemorations throughout France.

Read more on:    tdf  |  mark cavendish  |  cycling
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