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The Tour de France in Yorkshire Will Be Success... If the Organisers Get It Right

03/04/2014 16:57 BST | Updated 03/06/2014 10:59 BST

I'm currently covering the build-up to the Tour de France, which you may or may not know, begins in Yorkshire for the very first time on 5 July.

The first two stages will take in the sights and sites of Leeds, Harrogate, York and Sheffield, before it heads to the South of England for a stretch between Cambridge and London.

Observing the officials charged with making the event a success, as I have since the start of January, has been nothing short of intriguing.

They are talking it up as the biggest thing to ever happen to Yorkshire: an historic moment when the eyes of the world will turn to the region. Figures such as £100million are being thrown around and coupled with sentences about long-term economic impact to further stoke the enthusiasm. "People of Yorkshire, this is your moment," they proclaim.

But for all the bluster, the cracks are starting to appear. Last week, a report found that the organisers now have a £2million shortfall to plug and that there were major faults in the original budget estimates.

A specially designed clock that was meant to be unveiled in the centre of Leeds to start the countdown on 27 March has now been put off until May because it's not ready.

Leeds City Council's full-scale assault on a pair of lap dancing clubs opposite the Town Hall, where the Tour will officially start, has been partially successful. One is shut and the other's future is subject to an ongoing legal process. The removal of licenses for these clubs was done under the convenient poll-boosting pretences of family friendliness and feminism.

Those aren't false pretences, but those in charge are all too aware that when the cameras roll across cycling's famous faces on the morning of 5 July, the presence of such an outlet lurking uncomfortably behind Chris Froome would be seen as a potentially poisonous public relations headache for the city.

But time is running out. There is not long to go, but they have a long way to go.

In many ways, these are echoes of the widespread trepidation, cynicism and finger-crossing that marked the build-up to the London Olympics. Those fears were unfulfilled on that occasion and the feel-good factor produced for the country that summer was something that will be hard for us all to forget.

I'd be surprised if the likes of Welcome to Yorkshire and local councils don't start using that as a handy reference point in the weeks to come, when panic buttons inevitably begin throbbing and scrutiny of their efficiency increases.

The other issue they have, that has barely been raised, is that of the volume of coverage Britain's sports media will give it. Welcome to Yorkshire were initially in talks to secure the Tour in 2016 but instead had to settle for this year - a World Cup year.

The weekend of the Grand Depart clashes with two World Cup quarter-finals, the Wimbledon singles finals, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and a build-up to a five match test series against India for England's cricketers.

Imagine England are out of the World Cup by then, that Andy Murray fails to make it to a third successive final, that Lewis Hamilton is not in contention for the F1 title and that England's cricketers (most likely of all) have failed to recapture the public imagination after a dismal winter.

Anything less than that unlikely permutation, and the Grand Depart in Yorkshire, for all the intense European interest and local enthusiasm, may be in danger of passing the non-Yorkshire public by without barely a whimper. And that would be a great shame.

That is why the hype is important now, and to be fair they're doing a reasonable job at that. Despite plans in Leeds falling flat, a conference in Harrogate to start the 100 day countdown was a blistering success and was attended by around 2,000 locals.

The challenge of organising the world's biggest cycling race is a huge one, and I dearly hope it is a challenge that is met by those with their hands of logistics.

If nothing else, because as a professional northerner I think the sight of the glorious Stage One route through the wonderful Yorkshire Dales would kill off any lingering outdated stereotypes about the North as a place of perpetual rain, rundown communities and overbearing smog.

And if they do manage that, then forget about the money problems and the absence of a clock, the Tour de France in Yorkshire will have done its job.