YORKSHIRE, England, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Organizers of the Tour de France say the 2014 bicycle race will start on the other side of the English channel in Great Britain for the second time ever.
The opening stage of the epic race, first contested in 1903, gets under way in the Yorkshire County town of Leeds, where organizers expect big crowds, a huge television audience and increased interest in the race itself among British sports fans.
British Cycling reported Friday two stages will take place in the county July 5-6, 2014, with a third stage in London.
"Like every other cycling fan, I am thrilled the world's biggest bike race is coming back to this country," British Cycling President Brian Cookson said. "The huge numbers who turned out to support the 2007 Grand Depart and the London 2012 road races show the passion we have for cycling."
The Tour opened in London in 2007, and the continuing afterglow of British cyclist Bradley Wiggins' Tour victory this year led race officials to give the nod to Yorkshire, the cycling magazine said.
Yorkshire was selected over Edinburgh, Scotland, and Florence, Italy, for the opening-stage honors, which came as something of a surprise to Yorkshire officials who had been looking more to 2016 for their chance to host the Tour.
Tour Director Christian Prudhomme cited the success of the 2007 start in England and Wiggins' victory in the decision to cross the English Channel once again.
"Since the resounding success of the Grand Depart in London in 2007, we were very keen to return to the United Kingdom," he said. "Bradley Wiggins' historical victory last July and the enormous crowds that followed the cycling events in the streets of London during the Olympic Games encouraged us to go back earlier than we had initially planned.
"Yorkshire is a region of outstanding beauty, with breathtaking landscapes whose terrains offer both sprinters and attackers the opportunity to express themselves."