EXCLUSIVE - Harrogate Advertiser meets the man behind Team Sky - Sir Dave Brailsford.
The eyes of the world are on our region, and the biggest names in British cycling have descended on our district for the opening stages of the Tour de France.
As excitement builds before the start of the world’s biggest annual sporting event this weekend, the Harrogate Advertiser spoke exclusively to the man pulling the strings behind Team Sky - Sir Dave Brailsford.
“We are all ready,” he said this morning as the team prepared to ride the route outside Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate.
“Just killing time now before we get started.”
He was keen, he said, for the race to begin.
“It’s a bit like sitting in a changing room with the boxing gloves on and just waiting to walk into the ring,” he said.
“Everybody is ready and we are just looking forward to getting it started.”
Sir Dave Brailsford is Team Sky’s boss and the former head of British Cycling. He is the man who has inspired Britain’s unrivalled cycling success over the last decade, and he was knighted by the Queen in 2013.
But most importantly for the Tour de France, he is the man in charge of training for the reigning champion Chris Froome. And he’s the one who has decided the final line-up for Sky’s team this weekend - including dropping Sir Bradley Wiggins.
He himself will be out cycling today, he said, preparing for the start of what will be a truly magnificent event. And the team was ready to take each turn as it came.
“This is like a hurdle race really,” he said. “If you start worrying about the fifth hurdle or the seventh hurdle, when you are trying to jump the first one, it’s a big mistake.
“You have to take it all in your stride and jump each hurdle at a time. You have to be attentive because you don’t know what will happen.”
Team Sky arrived in Harrogate yesterday evening (Wednesday) ahead of tonight’s opening ceremony in Leeds. And the first thing they did was scout out some of the route.
“It’s a fantastic part of the world,” said Sir Dave Brailsford.
“After 10 years of hard work in cycling, to see the world’s biggest annual sporting event coming here, is quite remarkable.
“You can expect 150 million viewers to get a glimpse of the beautiful Yorkshire countryside and I think that’s a great thing. We are all really excited about it.
“To be able to ride around in a home race, and ride around Yorkshire and hopefully see through the clouds to see the gorgeous countryside.
“I have friends who have told me about it. Some of my peers who live up in this neck of the woods, Stuart Lancaster (England Rugby head coach) who lives up here in Leeds, he texted me yesterday. He was telling me about how much effort has been put in around here.
“I went up to Blubberhouses and saw the little church there and all the little bikes. It’s amazing really.”
The Team riders set off this morning to test drive some of the route.
And Harrogate’s welcome, said Sir Dave Brailsford, has done the district proud.
“It’s not only the cycling team that is on show, but the British public and the supporters have made us proud,” he said.
“As a nation of supporters we are the best in the world. They have demonstrated they can turn their hands to cycling and rival anything we will see when we are riding around France.”
Yorkshire, he said, was a truly beautiful part of the world to hold this race.
“As you go round Yorkshire, up to the northern part and as you come down, the end of the second stage is quite different in its terrain to the dales. The variety is fantastic,” he said.
“But it also has such beautiful buildings and the architecture ion Yorkshire is quite stunning. That’s what people will be surprised by. The style of the house.
“It’s got a lot of history and culture. The historic element shines through and hopefully people will get to see that.”