EDINBURGH plans to make a fresh bid to host the Tour de France’s Grand Depart before the end of the decade, it was confirmed yesterday.
On the day the world’s greatest bike race got off to a flying start in Yorkshire, Steve Cardownie of Edinburgh City Council said it was hoped that the event could be held in Scotland’s capital in either 2018 or 2019.
Cardownie was involved in Edinburgh’s failed bid to hold this year’s departure stage. The Italian city of Florence was also in the running but the Tour organisers opted for Yorkshire.
“We are looking at perhaps forming a bid with Event Scotland for either 2018 or 2019,” said Cardownie. “We will be that much more equipped because we will have seen first hand how it operates in Yorkshire. We’ve staged cycling events in the past, we’ve had athletic events and, of course, we have our fantastic festivals. We are always in the market for something new, something different.
“We were encouraged to bring that bid forward to 2014 and Yorkshire beat us to it. When the organisers were last here, they were waxing lyrical about the city and they could see themselves that it’s good for the Tour. It’s not just good for Edinburgh.”
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were joined by Prince Harry to welcome the Tour in Yorkshire yesterday.
Crowds cheered loudly as the cyclists gathered outside 18th-century Harewood House, where they took off their helmets as they were greeted with a rendition of the French and British national anthems, performed by the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers.
British reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome stood nearby as the duchess cut the ribbon to start the race, which will conclude on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
The RAF’s Red Arrows performed a flypast that left a trail of red, white and blue vapour – the national colours of both France and the UK.
The royal party received a warm welcome, but the biggest cheers were reserved for the Tour riders who cruised down the tree-lined drive preceded by race director Christian Prudhomme in a pink car with the man who brought the event to the UK – Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity.
With cycling fever gripping the nation, spectators flocked from all over the country to cheer on Froome as he hopes to retain the yellow jersey he won last year, while Yorkshire folk hoped Mark Cavendish would pedal to victory in the first stage in his mother’s home town, Harrogate.
The 198 racers enjoyed clear skies and bright sunshine as they left Leeds Town Hall at 11am in a leisurely ceremonial start, and began racing in earnest when they left Harewood House.
Riders pedalled the 118 miles from Leeds to Harrogate, weaving through the Yorkshire Dales and Moors and taking in three ferocious climbs.
Today they will start in York for a stage involving some of the most challenging climbs in Britain, ending in Sheffield.
Tomorrow the Tour moves south to Cambridge, with the stage ending at Buckingham Palace – which was also the final finishing line in the 2012 London Olympics cycling road race.
The Tour then goes to Ypres in northern France to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.
After 21 stages and some 2,272 miles, riders will finish in the French capital on 27 July.
Britons have won the past two Tours. Sir Bradley Wiggins claimed the crown in 2012, becoming the first British winner, while Froome sped to victory last year.
The nation will be crossing its fingers that three is the magic number and Froome, who is the overwhelming favourite, can defend his title.
Up to three million people are expected to watch the Tour’s visit to Yorkshire. The small village of West Tanfield, near Ripon, had a carnival atmosphere with the streets decked with bunting and yellow bicycles. There was also live entertainment, a fairground and a hot air balloon festival.
The village, which has a population of around 500, had even commissioned its own beer from the Pennine Brewing Company – the Tour D’Ale – in celebration of the event.
Nick Clegg, who represents the Yorkshire constituency of Sheffield Hallam, used Twitter to urge viewers watching the race to get on their bikes. He wrote: “All eyes are on Yorkshire today for #TDF #GrandDepart – but if we want a lasting legacy we need to get more people cycling.”