More than just a weekend in July

One of the biggest sporting events in the world is making its way to Yorkshire in 2014. But what happens after its gone? Will we just look back fondly on a great weekend of cycling or will we look forward to the legacy left by the Tour de France visiting the region?

During the Olympic Games this summer we were constantly hearing about the legacy that will be left and how it will ‘inspire a generation’. But how does Yorkshire plan to capitalise on having a massive sporting event like the Tour de France in the region. Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, told me about how much progress has already been made:

“We want it to be the greatest Grand Depart ever, we want to, for example, have an arts festival before the Tour that runs for 100 days. We want a grassroots cycling festival that runs alongside that. We want it to be the greenest Grand Depart ever in terms of it being environmentally friendly. We are already working with British Cycling on the legacy of the Tour, about how we can make this have an impact on cycling in Yorkshire in a really exciting way, not just on the weekend of July 5th 2014 but in the years to come”.

The main aim of bringing any major sporting event to a country is to inspire a younger generation into taking part in sport. Thomas Harcourt, member of the Blackhawk Bikes cycling team feels this is a vital part of the Tour’s legacy: “I think it is important that the tour makes an impact on all aspects of cycling. Most importantly it needs to inspire the next generation of riders to take over from the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. There is a need for some younger riders particularly in my team as they are needed to help the club keep going in the future. I also live in the hope that this might go some way towards getting some of the potholed and battered roads sorted out”.

The condition of some roads across Yorkshire is something that could hinder the future of cycling within the county. A local travel company recently announced that they would be offering Tour de France themed cycling excursions across the region, something known as cycling tourism.

Tom Riordan feels this is a great idea and shows the potential for cycling within Yorkshire: “I think that is a great example of how the whole region can benefit from having the Tour here. I think the whole idea of Yorkshire as the cycling capital of the country in terms of cycling tourism is something we are very keen to assume as part of the legacy ideas. From that aspect we have to say, do we want to become the Mallorca of the UK? Mallorca is very well known now for its cycling tourism, it has specialist hotels and specialist packages that are put together. That is something that we are aiming for here.”

However, one of the great appeals of Mallorca is the smooth pothole free roads. Yorkshire doesn’t yet have this luxury while the weather could also prove to be a problem. Rob Wardle, secretary of the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club, backs up this notion: “Yorkshire has many great cycling routes with the winding roads and challenging climbs and the scenery is wonderful. However there are some problems with attracting cyclists here, there will always be the issue of beating the weather. No one wants to go for a ride in the cold and wet and also the issue of the road condition which at the moment can be poor in places.”

Thomas Harcourt backs up Rob however he does think that the region may be able to overcome their problems: “Yorkshire is definitely a fantastic place for cycling with its wide range of different terrain to train in and I think it would be tough to find a better place in England to go cycling in. However the whole lure of cycling in places like Mallorca is that they have a much better climate that rarely dips under 10 degrees for the whole year and the roads are in fantastic condition. Having said that, I think there would still be sufficient interest from those cyclists who maybe cannot afford a trip abroad to make it worthwhile offering specific cycling excursions”.

Whilst we won’t truly know what legacy the Tour de France will leave in Yorkshire until after the event, there are certainly some plans being put into place to make sure the county can take full advantage of this opportunity. Tom Riordan describes it best when he says: “Yorkshire is the future of cycling in this country”.

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