Leeds & West Yorkshire

Leeds countdown to Yorkshire's Tour de France start

Children at future site of Grand Depart in Leeds
Image caption About 100 schoolchildren from Harrogate, Hull and Leeds launched the countdown at the site of next year's Grand Depart on The Headrow

The year-long countdown to the opening of the 101st Tour de France in Yorkshire has been marked by 100 schoolchildren on bikes.

Leeds will host the start of the race on 5 July 2014 with riders setting off from The Headrow in the city centre.

Children from schools in Harrogate, Hull and Leeds were on bikes to launch the official countdown.

Yorkshire-based cyclists Dean Downing and Brian Robinson took part in the event.

A section of The Headrow was closed around Leeds Art Gallery for the launch between 14:30 and 15:30 BST.

Downing, who rides for team Madison Genesis and is from Rotherham, said: "Yorkshire will have experienced nothing like the Tour de France before.

"It will be an amazing moment for everyone in the county and I am sure the whole of Yorkshire will get behind the Grand Depart."

Robinson, 82, from Mirfield, was the first British rider to finish the race and the first to complete a stage of the Tour in 1958.

'Inspire new generation'

Ben Macklin, 13, a pupil at The Sirius Academy in Hull, said: "It is amazing to think the world's greatest cyclists are coming to Yorkshire next year.

"I am so proud that they will be riding in [Yorkshire], I will definitely be there to see them. It is going to be a weekend that I will remember for the rest of my life."

Tourist authority Welcome to Yorkshire said the Grand Depart would "mark one of the greatest days in Yorkshire's long and proud history".

Chief executive Gary Verity said: "The Tour de France will put Yorkshire on the map across the world and hopefully inspire a new generation of children to take up the sport and achieve great things."

The first stage of the 101st Tour will take in the Yorkshire Dales before finishing in Harrogate.

Stage two starts in York and passes through Keighley and Huddersfield on the way to Sheffield.

The event will spend two days in Yorkshire.

The race last visited the UK in 2007, when London hosted the prologue and the opening stage.

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