Yorkshire really packs a punch when it comes to cycling, with a rich heritage of men and women who have graced the international cycling scene with great success. These include:
Brian Robinson was the first British rider to finish the Tour de France in 1955 and the first to win a stage, in 1958. He was born in Mirfield and joined Huddersfield Road Club when he was 13 and completed much of his early racing during his National Service. In addition to his Tour success he also won the Dauphine Libere in 1961. Read about when Andrew Denton went to meet Brian.
Charly Gaul and Federico Bahamontes are regarded as the greatest climbers in the history of professional cycling, but they faced competition from an entirely unexpected source at the 1959 Tour de France - a skinny 23-year-old from South Yorkshire called Victor Sutton. Alongside Brian Robinson, Sutton was one of the first riders to show the world that British cyclists could compete at the highest level of the sport.
Barry Hoban began his career in the 1950s racing with local team Calder Clarion CC and progressed brilliantly into continental racing. Between 1967 and 1975 he won 8 stages of the Tour, a record only beaten by Mark Cavendish. In 1968 he became the first British rider to win a Tour de France mountain stage but his biggest win was the 1974 Ghent-Wevelgem, in which he beat Eddy Merckx and Roger De Vlaeminck in a sprint finish.
Beryl Burton from Morley, Leeds, dominated women's cycle racing in the UK, winning 96 domestic championships and seven world titles, she also collected 13 pursuit titles and 71 time-trial titles. She set a women's record for the 12-hour time-trial which exceeded the men's record for two years. Her ability on a bike led to the rare distinction for a woman of being invited to compete in the Grand Prix des Nations.
Malcolm Elliott is one of Britain's best-loved and most successful riders. The Sheffield born rider claimed significant wins domestically and internationally in a career that began in the 1980s and only ended recently, such is his enthusiasm for the sport. Highlights include two stage victories in the Vuelta a Espana, being a national road race, hill climb and pursuit champion, masters world champion, Commonwealth gold medallist, Olympian, Milk Race and Tour of Britain winner and two Tour de France campaigns in the late 1980s. Read about Paul Howard's ride with Malcolm Elliott here.
Ben Swift is a 25 year old Team Sky and Team GB rider from Rotherham. On the road his palmarès include Tour de Picardie (2010), one stage of the Tour of California, two stages of the Tour Down Under and one of the Vuelta a Castilla y León. He is also a World Champion on the track.
Ed Clancy from Huddersfield is a world, Olympic and European champion on the track. An explosive sprinter, he took gold in the team pursuit and bronze in the individual Omnium at London 2012. British Cycling announced in September 2012 that Clancy would replace Sir Chris Hoy in the Great Britain team for the team sprint event for a number of competitions.
Lizzie Armitstead a professional road and track racing cyclist from Otley, West Yorkshire. Lizzie won the British National Road Race Championships in 2011 and she really rose to prominence in the London 2012 Olympics when she picked up Team GB's first medal of the games with a fantastic, gutsy performance that earned her a silver medal. In 2013 Lizzie will be riding as part of the Dolmans-Boels team.
A new generation of Yorkshire cyclists are making their mark including, Dean and Russell Downing, Scott Thwaites, Josh Edmundson and Adam Blythe. Not to mention Yorkshire cyclists in other disciplines who have made their mark such as multiple world cup and downhill world mountain bike champion Steve Peat and his present day contemporaries.
For two likely competitors the route through Essex will feel very close to home - Team Sky’s Ian Stannard, who supported 2013 winner Chris Froome to the yellow jersey, and Movistar’s Alex Dowsett, who won a stage of the 2013 Tour of Italy, are both from Chelmsford.
Sir Bradley Marc Wiggins was the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France in 2012. Nicknamed ‘Wiggo’, he is a professional road and track racing cyclist who rides for the UCI ProTeam Team Sky.
Raised in North West London, Wiggins first discovered his passion for cycling in the city and in 2012 he was chosen to participate in two road cycling events at the Olympic Games in London – the time trial and the road race. Winning gold in the time trial, Wiggins became the most decorated British Olympian, with seven medals and entered the Guinness World Records, becoming the first cyclist to win an Olympic gold medal and the Tour de France in the same year.
Following his success in 2012, Wiggins was the subject of several honours and awards; the Vélo d'Or award for best rider of the year, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award and awarded a knighthood as part of the 2013 New Year Honours.
Yorkshire is widely regarded as one of the spiritual heartlands of UK cycling having been involved in development of road racing and time trialling from their early inceptions.
It has been a frequent destination for the various incarnations of the modern day Tour of Britain, has hosted the British Men's Road Championships more than a dozen times since it started in 1943 and prestigious criterium races, such as Otley town centre, continue to increase in popularity.
Leeds was a host city for the UCI Road World Cup during the 1990s, which became known as the Leeds International Classic, and brought the county out in force to support some of the biggest names in cycling.
And in more recent times Yorkshire has continued its support for cycling by hosting the UCI Cross Country Mountain Bike World Cup at Dalby Forest and the 2012 National Road Race Championship at Ampleforth Abbey.