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Leeds set for Grand Départ


Tour de France 2014 - Grand Depart - Mercredi 2 juillet 2014 - Leeds © A.S.O

The 198 riders selected by the 22 teams have made their way to Yorkshire for the Grand Départ of the 101st Tour de France as they are expected to ride from the University of Leeds to Leeds Arena to be introduced to the public on Thursday. Defending champion Chris Froome of Team Sky and 25-time Tour de France stage winner Mark Cavendish from Omega Pharma-Quick Step are expected to be warmly welcomed by the crowd.

Many riders have chosen the route of stage 1 or part of it for their first training ride, especially the sprinters who have set their sight on the first finishing line in Harrogate where a bunch gallop is highly expected on Saturday afternoon. André Greipel was thrilled to discover a phone booth dressed in green while most of the area is already painted in yellow, including some trains. Marcel Kittel made an appointment with some fans who took him to the exact location where he envisages to repeat the first winning sprint he conducted one year ago in Bastia, Corsica, on his way to conquer the first yellow jersey up for grab. A similar scenario is highly likely this time around.
Amaury Sport Organisation director of cycling Christian Prudhomme also witnessed the new colors of Leeds, the main one being yellow. He was a guest of honour in a city council meeting. “It was touching to see how much the Tour de France can unite people who are used to be political adversaries and to fight all year long”, the Frenchman commented. “They posthumously paid a tribute to [former female cycling champion] Beryl Burton who was born in Leeds. The ‘Freedom of the City of Leeds' honour was assigned to Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela! I came out of the session full of emotions.”
Prudhomme went on to officially open the media centre where journalists from all around the world have already started to gather. Later he attended a bike race before “the” bike race: the Otley Cycle Races. That was a springboard in 2005 for Cavendish to become a Tour champion. In Harrogate, Froome begun his series of meetings with the press while his arch-rival Alberto Contador rode once again on the cobblestones of stage 5 in north of France and flew to Bradford with his team-mates in the private jet of his team owner Oleg Tinkoff on Wednesday.
All Tour de France actors are on their toes for “the greatest of the Grands Départs”, as expected by Gary Verity, director of “Welcome to Yorkshire”.

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Tour de France 2014 - Grand Depart - Mercredi 2 juillet 2014 - Leeds © A.S.O

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