Tour de Yorkshire?

Yorkshire is best known for its beautiful landscapes, traditional ales and friendly locals. Soon you may be able to add cycling to that list as hopes are high that the prestigious Tour de France may be on its way to the county.

The Yorkshire bid for the biggest annual sporting event in the world is considered one of the front runners to host the 2014 Grand Depart. If the bid is successful, this would mark just the second time that the Tour has begun on British shores after London hosted the Grand Depart in 2007.

The bid to host the Tour is being led by the Yorkshire tourist board, Welcome to Yorkshire with heavy support from Leeds City Council. I spoke to the Chief Executive’s of both these organisations to get a better idea of how the Tour could benefit the county and why Yorkshire wants to host the historic race.

Understanding the magnitude of the task of bringing such a huge event to Yorkshire is something that isn’t lost on Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council: “I think people in this country are aware of the Tour and particularly with Bradley Wiggins winning. It’s come from the back pages to the front pages and from ITV 3 to ITV 1 in the last year, I think people have got more of an idea but the scale of it is enormous. It’s the biggest annual sporting event in the world and when you’re bidding for something as big as this you’re up against some really good people.”

Therein lies the problem for Yorkshire securing the Tour as they are competing against several higher profile cities and countries. On the continent the likes of Florence, Barcelona, Germany and the Netherlands have all tabled bids. However it is widely thought that Yorkshire’s main competition comes from near neighbours Scotland.

Earlier this year British Cycling controversially backed the Scottish bid, however Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire is confident that Yorkshire can beat off the competition and host a successful Grand Depart in the county: “Leeds would be a wonderful host city and Yorkshire would provide a stunning backdrop and we are working hard to bring the Grand Depart to the great county. Yorkshire’s recent sporting success in the Olympics, and before that the torch relay, has also reinforced how exciting and inspiring it would be to have the world’s largest annual sporting event racing on our roads.”

Despite the lack of support from British Cycling, Yorkshire has secured backing from several high profile cyclists, past and present. Mark Cavendish, Ben Swift, Barry Hoban and Brian Robinson have all offered their support which is something Tom appreciates:

“Yeah, I think it’s tremendously important. One of the things that ASO have been very impressed with, I think, is how our bid is very much is in keeping with the values of the Tour, which are about the romance of it and the history and Brian has shown the great history and heritage we have in Yorkshire. Barry and Mark as well, you know Mark is making that history now and his Mum lives in Harrogate so he has a link here as well. It’s great because these are household names to people who follow the Tour across the world.”

So why are Yorkshire bidding to host this event? And how can it benefit the county both now and in the future?

According to the main backer of the 2007 London Grand Depart, Transport for London, the Tour is estimated to have brought in £88 million to South East England. The main sources of this income were through food and drink, transport and accommodation. London also raised around £30 million in equivalent advertising spend, which measures the press coverage that they received against how much it would have cost to advertise in those newspapers or media outlets. Early estimates show that the Tour could bring economic benefits of around £100 million to Yorkshire and Tom is confident that they can outdo London:

“They (London) reckon they got around £80 million in economic benefit. Then around £30 million in equivalent advertising spend. We think we can beat that. Welcome to Yorkshire think we can get a £300 million economic benefit and I’m the sort of conservative one who is saying, we’ll beat London. Anything from £100 million to £300 million I think.”

The actual route that the Tour will take has been kept under wraps however it is expected to centre around Leeds before branching out to other areas in Yorkshire over a two day period. If Yorkshire can reap similar kind of benefits that London did, where over 2 million people lined the route, then bringing the great French race to the region could be seen as a masterstroke. However should the bid fail questions will be asked as to whether spending such large sums of money was really worth it.

The Yorkshire bid already has over 160,000 pledges of support from the public. You can Back le Bid here.

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