By Duncan Mackay

Bring the Tour de France to YorkshireDecember 14 - Yorkshire will host the start of the 2014 Tour de France, completing the most memorable year in the history of cycling in Britain. 

Two stages, the first beginning in Leeds, will be held in the county on July 5 and 6, Tour organisers Amaury Sports Organisation announced today, after the Welcome to Yorkshire-led bid won the right to host the Grand Départ ahead of rival bids including an Edinburgh start, which was backed by British Cycling, and one from Florence

The third stage of the 101st Tour will finish in London, with Tour director Christian Prudhomme eager to capitalise on the experiences of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The lure of London may have been the clinching factor for the Yorkshire bid as the Tour returns to Britain for the first time since 2007, when an estimated crowd of one million people lined the streets of the capital for the opening prologue.

"Since the resounding success of the Grand Départ in London in 2007, we were very keen to return to the United Kingdom," said Prudhomme.

"Bradley Wiggins' historical victory last July and the enormous crowds that followed the cycling events in the streets of London during the Olympic Games encouraged us to go back earlier than we had initially planned.

"Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breathtaking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves.

"We have encountered a phenomenal desire from the Yorkshire team to welcome the Tour de France and have no doubt that passion and support will be particularly evident for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014."

Bradley Wiggins wins Tour de France 2012British Cycling's profile has never been higher thanks to the success of Bradley Wiggins in this year's Tour de France and the London 2012 Olympics

Wiggins became the Tour's first British winner in July and Yorkshire has a rich cycling tradition; Britain's first Tour stage winner Brian Robinson is from Huddersfield.

The Yorkshire bid also had the support of Team Sky's Ben Swift, double Olympic track champion Ed Clancy, Barry Hoban, winner of eight stages of the Tour, and Malcolm Elliott, the first British rider to win a points jersey in a Grand Tour.

Prolific Tour stage winner Mark Cavendish, whose mother lives in Harrogate and who first raced in a Leeds United football top, also backed the bid.

The Isle of Man rider, who won the Tour de France points classification in 2011 and has triumphed in 23 stages in the event, said on Twitter: "Such great news to hear that le Tour de France £TDF2014 will start in my Mothers birthplace of Yorkshire! So excited. More racing in the UK!"

It will be the second time Britain has hosted the Grand Départ and the fourth visit in all following a single stage in Plymouth in 1974 and two across the south of England 20 years later.

"It's great news that Yorkshire will host the Grand Depart and that the race will also come to London," said Britain's Sports Minister Hugh Robertson.

"Britain is riding high in the cycling world and the Tour coming to these shores will help grow the sport further.

"It's the latest in a long line of world class sport events we're hosting in the next few years, leaving a real legacy from London 2012."

Details of the route are due to be announced on January 17.

Yorkshire Le Tour carsBringing the start of the Tour de France in 2014 is the end of a successful campaign for Yorkshire

"I am in no doubt they will come to Yorkshire in their millions, lining the length and breadth of the route to cheer on the champions of world cycling and our home grown British heroes," said Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity.

Yorkshire had first raised the possibility of bidding for the event in 2010 but did not submit a formal bid until last May, setting their sights initially on 2016.

But so impressive was their bid that they have been awarded the event two years early.

It is estimated that staging the event could be worth up to £300 million ($485 million/€369 million) in economic impact to Yorkshire, the largest county in the United Kingdom.

"Yorkshire is a passionate county of proud people and I am sure they will guarantee that their Grand Depart raises the bar in terms of expectations for all future hosts to come," said Verity.

The 100th edition of the Tour is due to begin in Corsica on June 29, 2013.

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