DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg is to throw his weight behind efforts to secure Government funding for the start of the Tour de France in Yorkshire next year.
Gary Verity, chief executive of tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire which masterminded the successful bid, has been invited to a meeting of the Cabinet to explain to Ministers why their support is needed.
All the costs have so far been met by Yorkshire councils and Welcome to Yorkshire in contrast to a rival Scottish bid for the event which was backed by UK Sport and British Cycling.
Sources close to Nick Clegg told the Yorkshire Post: “Nick thinks the Tour de France is fantastic news for the region and the whole country, and that the Government has to be absolutely supportive of it.
“As a Sheffield MP it is obviously very close to home for him, and he will be fighting in Government to get the financial support that’s needed.
“Gary Verity has been invited to address the whole Cabinet next week, and Nick will be banging the drum for the cause around the Cabinet table.
“There is obviously a debate to be had about the level of support required, and everyone knows that money is tight.
“There is no guarantee we will be successful but it’s fair to say we are quietly confident.
“We want to make sure this is the best Grand Départ there has ever been.”
Mr Clegg’s backing has emerged after he was put on the spot over Government support for Yorkshire’s staging of the Tour at a recent Yorkshire Post event.
Speaking at the time Mr Clegg promised Ministers would look at any “specific and worked-up proposal” that explained how central Government money could play a part.
He also said he saw a link between the hosting of successful events such as the Olympics with opportunities for UK businesses on the international stage.
The total cost of staging the event, including the leg between Cambridge and London, is estimated at around £10m.
Leeds City Council is thought to have made the biggest financial contribution so far with councils covering North Yorkshire, Bradford, Kirklees and York promising funds.
Wakefield Council has also committed money to the project even though the race will not pass through its district.
It has pointed to the wider economic benefits, estimated at around £100m, that the Tour de France is expected to generate in Yorkshire, with British sporting interest in cycling at an all-time high following the success of Sir Bradley Wiggins in last year’s Tour and the UK’s domination in the velodrome at the Olympic Games.
Welcome to Yorkshire is already due to discuss how the Government can support the region’s hosting of the Tour de France with Culture Secretary Maria Miller next week.
Mr Verity said: “We are extremely pleased to receive the support of Nick Clegg and we are hopeful that the Government will feel able to support the Grand Depart of the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire financially.”
The Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France will start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate.
The second stage will leave York and wind through North and West Yorkshire before finishing in Sheffield. A third stage will take the riders from Cambridge to the capital before the event returns to home soil.
Yorkshire’s success in attracting the Grand Départ has already raised the region’s international profile with international media flocking to the county for the announcement of the route earlier this month.
Thousands of overseas and UK cycling fans are expected to head to Yorkshire for the event next July.
Welcome to Yorkshire has already begun recruiting an army of volunteers to help the event run smoothly, following the example set by the “Games makers” widely praised for their work at the Olympics and Paralympics last year.