The official opening ceremony for the Tour de France takes place later today at the Leeds Arena as the biggest bicycle race in the World comes to the UK for its first three stages. This will be preceded by a city centre parade which will see all 198 riders taking part.

The parade itself will travel from the city’s university at around 6.00pm and make its way to arrive at the Arena around half an hour later. The ceremony will include live performances by Embrace and Opera North as well as the presentation of the twenty-two participating teams.

The first stage of the Tour begins on Saturday and travels from Leeds to Harrogate, with the second stage taking them from York to Sheffield on Sunday. The third and final stage to be held in the UK will take the leaders and the pelaton from Cambridge to London on Monday.

The interest in the Tour has led to plans for an annual ‘Tour of Yorkshire’ cycle race to be planned which could see the world’s top riders return to the county as early as May next year if the world’s governing body, the UCI, approve the proposed three day event. They are expected to make a decision in September, and the proposed route would include different areas of the county that have not featured this year.

The application is for a 2.1 UCI Europe Tour Event looking to continue the relationship that has grown out of organizing this year’s Grand Depart for the Tour. The county is seen as a new cycling heartland and alongside the public interest the area is also seen as having scenery that is worthy of holding its own race in scales of both beauty and technical aspects.

So make sure you are ready for the Tour and wear your Craft cycling jersey to show your support if you are in that area of the country over the next 3-4 days. It should make for some great viewing, especially with the weather forecast.