LIEGE, Belgium (Reuters) - The French may not recognise Yorkshire’s puddings as haute cuisine but the ambitious northern English region are confident Tour de France organisers will find their location an appetising starter for the race in the coming years.
Yorkshire puddings, struggling ex-mining towns and men with flat caps are some of the negative stereotypes associated with the area but beautiful countryside, arguably England’s best stretch of coastline and impressive infrastructure could make Yorkshire attractive to Tour organisers ASO.
“We have more Michelin star restaurants in Yorkshire than anywhere else in the UK after London,” Yorkshire’s bid leader Gary Verity told Reuters having had the Tour bosses in England four weeks ago to look around.
“Our conversations with ASO have been on a good level and very positive. I‘m stood here with a smile on my face,” he added without going into details. “They realised this is a very serious and meaty bid from Yorkshire.”
Organisers are not averse to holding ‘le Grand Depart’ outside of France - this year’s race starts later on Saturday in Belgium - while Britain has held stages of the Tour before, including when the peloton passed through Dover, Brighton and Portsmouth in 1994.
The growth of British cycling also plays into Yorkshire’s favour.
Mark Cavendish is the world champion and looking to defend his green jersey at the Tour while fellow countryman and Team Sky rider Bradley Wiggins is the favourite for the overall race as he bids to become the first Briton to win cycling’s most famous event.
The London Olympics in July and August, where Britain is again expected to shine on the track and on the road in cycling, is also boosting Yorkshire’s bid.
They are ready to go whenever ASO have a slot available, possibly 2016, with two stages planned covering most of a region which includes national parks and some of Britain’s most vibrant cities such as Leeds.
The Olympic torch relay recently went through Yorkshire with police estimates saying 1.2 million or one in five people from the region came out to see the spectacle.
Verity, also head of Yorkshire’s tourist board, expects more for the Tour.
“I wouldn’t bet against two million,” he said.
Editing by Patrick Johnston