BRIAN Cookson knows the route of the Tour de France’s opening two stages better than anyone.
He has ridden the roads and climbs on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border more times than he cares to mention and is well aware of the pitfalls the professional peloton will face when the tour kicks off this weekend.
“I don’t think any of the pros will be taking any advice from me,” said the president of cycling’s governing body the UCI.
“I will be back there in Yorkshire. It obviously comes very close to us here in Lancashire and it will be a great spectacle and I am sure it will be a great success.
“I have ridden the roads it is coming over many times and it is not an easy stage.
“But I was talking to John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano rider) at the Tour of California and they had been over training for the second stage and he said it was much harder than some of the hillier one day classics such as Liege Bastogne Liege.
“It is a tough course and I am sure it will provide a lot of tough racing.”
Cookson is in his first year in charge of the sport and has relocated from East Lancashire to continental Europe, but wherever he lives he is still keen to get out on the bike.
“I am living in Montreux at the moment and it is right on the doorstep of the Alps.
“I have still got the house in Whalley that we regularly come back to and I have a home in Switzerland now. Wherever we go from there is 50 minutes uphill and then 10 minutes downhill but it is good training.
“I am doing the Etape du Tour in July which goes up the Hautacam so I will need to be in good shape by then. I am still trying to get out on the bike as much as possible but there is a lot to do. I have done a lot of travelling so far so it is hard to find the time to get out on the bike as well.”
When Cookson says he has been busy he is not wrong.
Even though he was well versed about the size of the task he was taking on when he was voted in as the new president at the end of last year, the sheer scale of work leaves him jet-setting across the world.
“It has been a bit of a whirlwind,” he said. “I think I have been to every continent so far.
“It is has certainly been a busy start. The level of work hasn’t surprised me but it is certainly a lot of work going in.
“What has been really encouraging is that everyone is keen to work with us and get behind us. A lot of people have come along and said we recognised that cycling needed to change and we will support you where we can.
“Everyone is coming from the same page and we all want the same thing so it is has been pleasing.
“I think most of the things that we have put forward have been well received so that has been pleasing.”
Cookson will be hoping to celebrate more British success in the Tour this year and believes Mark Cavendish can get things started with a victory in stage one on Saturday.
Cookson added: “Mark Cavendish looks very, very good. I think it will be a very successful tour for the British guys. Mark looked very lean at the Tour of California and not only did he win two sprint stages he also rode a very good time trial where he placed in the top 25 or so.
“He will be really motivated for the stage into Harrogate where his mum is from and if Cav puts his mind to something he usually gets it right.”
Reigning champion Chris Froome will once again be gunning for the overall title although Cookson is somewhat surprised that East Lancashire’s Sir Bradley Wiggins has been overlooked by Team Sky chief Sir Dave Brailsford.
“You have to be very confident to leave Bradley at home,” added Cookson. “But it looks like Team Sky will be really strong at the Tour this year. Hopefully it can bring some success again. Chris has been riding himself into form.
“But it is a tough, tough race to win.”