In exactly 498 days one of the largest sporting events in the world will be rocking up on our doorstep. For on that day, Saturday 5th July 2014, the Tour de France will be making its return to British shores after Yorkshire won a bid to host the 101st annual edition of the biggest cycling race in the world.
After weeks and months of waiting, the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), organisers of the Tour de France, finally made the decision to award the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France to Yorkshire.
The bid beat off competition from the likes of Florence, Barcelona and Scotland, something Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, Tom Riordan is very proud of: “It was amazing, I think it has been such an against the odds bid, because it wasn’t government backed, it was purely just a business and council partnership in the north of England. Yet we’ve won against Barcelona, Florence and Scotland which is really something to be proud of. I think it’s lifted everybody, everybody is excited about it and looking forward to it”.
Defeating their more illustrious opponents from mainland Europe is also something that Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, feels the people of Yorkshire should be proud to have achieved: “We are delighted to welcome the world’s greatest cycle race to one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom. We are honoured to have been chosen to stage the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France and we are confident that the riders will find our spectacular scenery both challenging and exhilarating”.
This will be just the third time that the Tour has crossed the Channel having made two previous visits to the British Isles. In 1998 Dublin hosted the start of the Tour and in 2007 the race made its first visit to England with London hosting the Grand Depart.
After the commercial and economic success that hosting the Tour provided for Dublin and London, Tom is convinced that Yorkshire can also reap the benefits that are associated with the Grand Depart of the Tour de France: “There is a psychological boost to winning something like this for the people of Yorkshire and of course the economic shot in the arm is going to happen. 100 million pounds of impact is probably the least that we’ll get, we’re looking to beat what London got in 2007 and I think we have a good chance of doing that if we can get 3 million people to Yorkshire to watch the Tour which we think we can definitely achieve”.
Whilst the economic benefit is expected to be huge, there have been some doubts about whether bringing the Tour to Yorkshire was really worth spending taxpayer’s money on in these austerity times. Tom rebuffs this notion: “The Tour is a free event and one of the things we have been saying to people who are concerned about the cost is effectively we’ve bought everyone’s ticket in the UK and they can watch it by the roadside. Whereas the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, the World Cup, the Euros you spend a lot of money to bid and then you have to pay to get in. This is a free event and we know that the economic figures do stack up.”
Before the ultimate venue of the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France was announced, British Cycling controversially decided to back the Scottish bid as opposed to Yorkshire’s. However, after Yorkshire was chosen, Tom was keen to stress the importance of British Cycling’s involvement: “They had a process they went through where they decided that they wanted a British bid starting in Scotland. We understand their reasons for that and that’s fine but we wanted the Grand Depart, we didn’t want to just be a leg of the Tour. That’s where the real economic benefit comes, it wasn’t ideal that we didn’t get British Cycling or UK Sport’s support during the bidding process but going forward we need British Cycling to be absolutely central to the Tour de France in the UK. We want their expertise; we are working with them on already on it and they are absolutely crucial to what we are trying to do now”.
This has certainly been a great victory for the county of Yorkshire and I’m sure we are all looking forward to the 5th of July 2014 when the biggest cycling event in the world comes to town.