Three British stages to open TdF 2014
The 2014 Tour de France will start with a stage between Leeds and Harrogate in the northern English county of Yorkshire on July 5, organisers of cycling's most prestigious and gruelling race announced on Thursday.
As will be the case for the 2013 edition, Tour director Christian Prudhomme again opted against a traditional time-trial or prologue opener which favours the sprinters of the peloton.
The second 200km stage in 2014 will begin in York and end in the southern Yorkshire city of Sheffield.
The Tour will then travel from the university city of Cambridge in eastern England to London for the third 170km stage on July 7, passing through the Olympic Park in the east of the British capital to finish at the Mall, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace.
"In its 110 years, the Tour will depart for a second time from Great Britain, but it's a second time in seven years, proof of the development of cycling in the United Kingdom," said Prudhomme.
The remaining stages of the 2014 Tour will be revealed in Paris on October 23.
"The Tour de France is not just sport, it is about more than sport," added Prudhomme of his race's durability. "It is not just a bike race."
The opening stage appears tailor-made for leading British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who was an ambassador for Yorkshire's successful bid to win the 2014 Grand Depart ahead of competing cities Florence and Edinburgh.
Cavendish's mother Adele and uncle live in Harrogate and Prudhomme joked: "None of the sprinters should be afraid of this stage and the fastest man in the pack might want to please his mother who lives in Harrogate! If he wins, I will be very happy."
Some one million people lined the streets when the Tour last crossed the Channel from France in 2007, when the prologue was held in London and a stage from the British capital to the southeastern city of Canterbury.
Before that, the race visited in 1974 and 1994, both times in and around the southern English coast, which is the closest part of Britain to mainland Europe.
The 2013 edition of the race – the 100th edition – starts for the first time on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, with British rider Bradley Wiggins in the saddle as defending champion after becoming the first Briton to win the Tour.