Apr 30, 2015 – Organizers say they’re expecting a million fans to line the streets during the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire which begins in Bridlington on Friday.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

The three stage race ends in Leeds — site of the Grand Depart at last year’s Tour de France — on Sunday with Olympic and world timetrial champion Bradley Wiggins the star attraction. Tour de France competitors, organizers and aficionados were amazed last year at the sheer numbers of fans that lined the streets for the first two stages in Yorkshire, followed by the third stage from Cambridge to London. And chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Gary Verity says we can expect more of the same over the next three days.

“I think the buzz is back: we’re expecting upwards of a million people over the three days, which is astonishing,” he told AFP. “Clearly that’s not as big as it was for the Tour de France, but you wouldn’t expect that. We think with a good weather forecast, certainly for the first two days, we expect big numbers of people out.”

Verity wants to turn Yorkshire into the “European capital of cycling” and part of that involves attracting a major international race to the northern English county. Eight of the 18 teams that will line up in July’s Tour de France are present with some major stars such as German Marcel Kittel — who won the opening stage of the Tour de France in Harrogate last year, as well as another three including the final one on the Champs Elysees in Paris — lining up for Giant-Alpecin.

Spanish Olympic road race champion from Beijing in 2008, Samuel Sanchez leads the BMC team. Britain’s own Team Sky are one of the major squads involved and will be aiming for overall victory for Yorkshire-born Ben Swift, from Rotherham.

A home winner would continue Yorkshire’s stunning sporting success in recent years — the county won seven of Britain’s 29 gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and would have finished 12th in the medals table if it were its own country: that would have put Yorkshire ahead of the likes of Jamaica, Spain and Brazil. But for now, Verity is concentrating merely on establishing the county as a cycling hub.

“I think Yorkshire lends itself beautifully to cycling. We’ve been doing cycling for a long time here: Beryl Burton, Tom Simpson, Brian Robinson and so on, Barry Hoban, for many, many years,” added Verity.

“We have all the ingredients for cycling: we have great hills, flats, stunning scenery, we have all the ingredients and the facilities, like where we are chatting now (Yorkshire Race Course). “Put all that together, and the passion for cycling, I think cycling’s in our DNA.”