WITH the well-awaited Tour de France’s start in Yorkshire less than 100 days away, organisers are gearing up for a show-stopping Grand Depart like no other.
A star-studded line-up of cycling celebrities, Tour chiefs and politicians gathered to celebrate the milestone in the countdown at tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire’s annual Y14 business conference at Harrogate International Centre yesterday.
The likes of five-time Tour champion Bernard Hinault, deputy director of Le Tour Pierre-Yves Thouault and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg were among the guest to be told of a series of Grand Depart firsts including the launch of the inaugural Yorkshire Festival 2014 programme of arts events and the unveiling of the first ever Grand Depart theme tune, Alistair Griffin’s The Road, as the region prepares for a one-of-a-kind Tour opening.
The headline announcement was a major new three-day international cycling race to be held in Yorkshire from 2015, which could take in areas that this year’s Grand Depart does not, such as Ryedale and East Yorkshire, providing one of the first notable legacies of the Tour’s visit.
Welcome to Yorkshire, British Cycling and Tour de France organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) have signed an agreement to deliver the new race.
Mr Thouault said: “It’s important to have a race for the legacy, this can be the first step and we need to have more. In May 2015 the race will be great for Yorkshire and for cycling.”
The excitement surrounding the prospect of future cycling events is hoped to prove a catalyst for a cycling legacy in Yorkshire, something the multi-agency Cycle Yorkshire 10-year project is also aiming to address.
City of York Council chief executive and Cycle Yorkshire chair, Kersten England, said: “This is clearly a part of the legacy but it’s about all types of cycling, whether it be cycling for leisure or otherwise. It’s deep in our history – we have produced more elite cyclists than any other part of Britain.”
And though details of any planned routes for the new three-day cycle event are sketchy, Leeds City Council has already expressed an interest.
When asked whether Leeds would seek to be on the new 2015 pro cycle route, Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan said: “In principle, of course, it looks as though it’s going to be a brilliant piece of the legacy.”
He is hoping that after the Grand Depart leaves town, Leeds will help “carve a niche” for Yorkshire in providing more cycling facilities and attracting more cycling tourism.
Organisers of the Y14 event also unveiled new Welcome to Yorkshire Grand Depart adverts to around 2,000 guests and released details of a new take on the Team Presentation that will see it made into a spectacle by show director Martin Green.
He promised to make the event at the 13,000-seater Leeds First Direct Arena on July 3 “the biggest opening ceremony Team Presentation ever produced in the history of the Tour de France”.