YORKSHIRE is close to sealing a deal that would bring the opening stages of the 2016 Tour de France to the region.
Tourism bosses from Welcome to Yorkshire have been in discussions with race organisers for months and have visited its Paris offices to present the county’s credentials.
The competition is the cycling world’s biggest and bringing it to Yorkshire would be a huge coup for the economy.
It is anticipated it would generate tens of millions of pounds while showcasing the area to a global television audience of more than two billion people.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire said the bid had been positively received so far and advanced discussions are due to take place next month.
“Yorkshire is a world class destination experienced at successfully hosting world class events and we believe it will provide the perfect backdrop to the world’s greatest cycle race, producing the best international Grand Départ the Tour de France has seen yet.”
He added: “The economic impact for Yorkshire will be tremendous and we will do everything we can to make sure the event comes here.”
Talks have around the Grand Départ - the opening two days of racing - which are held in a new location outside France every two years.
Plans are now underway for organisers to visit Yorkshire to see the proposed route, which would start from Leeds city centre.
From there, the 22 teams would weave their way to the Yorkshire Dales, head east to Scarborough and the coast, via York and the North York Moors, before dropping south to Hull and finally to Sheffield.
The racing would be spread over two days, covering 180km a day.
A festival of music and entertainment to welcome the teams and the tour’s entourage is also planned for Leeds city centre.
Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said: “This is one of the most famous sporting events in the world and Leeds would be incredibly proud to host the Grand Départ.
“As one of the UK’s most famous sporting cities I know our businesses and residents would embrace, support and celebrate the city hosting such a spectacular sporting event.
“The teams, riders and visitors from across the world would receive a warm Leeds welcome and I am sure that would stay with them as they made their way across Yorkshire.”