THE WORLD’S most famous cycling race could come to Mirfield as part of an official bid to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire, which tourist chiefs think could be a multimillion pound bonanza for local businesses.
The town, with its rich cycling heritage, has been championed for a spot on the route across the county after ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ officials submitted plans to potentially host the early stages of the 2016 event.
The opening two days of racing are held in a new location outside France every two years in a tradition known as the Grand Depart, and Yorkshire is competing against Barcelona, Venice, Berlin and Scotland for the right to host the stages in four years’ time.
Stages were last held in the UK in 2007 when London and Kent played host. Officials estimated that the event was worth around £88 million to the local economy.
Mirfield could play a role in proceedings after Coun Martyn Bolt made contact with tourist chiefs, Kirklees officials and Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Simon Reevell to highlight the town’s cycling links.
British cycling legend Brian Robinson won a stage in both the 1958 and 1959 Tours and still lives in the town, along with fellow Tour veteran Albert Hitchen, who competed in 1967 and lives on St Mary’s Walk.
Lisa Brambani represented Britain in the 1988 Olympics and there are several other cyclists from Mirfield who have raced on the national and international circuit.
Coun Bolt (Con) said: “The cost of staging the event could be around £5 million, but the benefits to local businesses could be huge.
“Big crowds would turn out and it would be a fantastic boost to the town. This area is steeped in cycling success.
“Barry Hoban, who won eight stage victories in the race between 1967 and 1975, comes from nearby in Wakefield and there’s the huge Holme Moss ascent between here and the runin to Sheffield.
“We need political and public support to bring the Tour to Yorkshire to showcase the area worldwide.”
The bid has already had support from star sprinter Mark Cavendish.
Cavendish, who has won 20 Tour de France stages including last year’s green jersey for being the Tour’s best sprinter, said: “My mum is from Yorkshire so I’m proud to be backing the Yorkshire 2016 bid.
“The county would provide a stunning backdrop to the Tour as well as a real test for the competitors, I have fond memories of holidaying in Yorkshire, a lot of my family still live there and it would be fantastic if the world’s greatest cycle race could come to Yorkshire.”
As part of the process Welcome to Yorkshire has appealed for locals to ‘Back le Bid’ by registering their support at www.yorkshire.com/backlebid.
Chief executive Gary Verity said: ìWe have formally submitted our bid to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire.
“Some may see us as outsiders, but we think Yorkshire has a lot to offer, not just our stunning scenery but the passion of our people and the expertise we have in hosting world class sporting events.”
If successful, the region would benefit to the tune of tens of millions of pounds of extra visitor spend and be the focus of a worldwide television audience of over two billion people.
More than 185 countries around the world show the Tour de France every year, with the last hour of every stage broadcast live across Europe.