Bosses at troubled tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire remains bullish about the future of their blue riband event after announcing the towns that will host the starts and finishes for the 2020 Tour de Yorkshire.
Four new towns have been added to the list of host venues for the sixth renewal of the cycling race next Spring, with Welcome to Yorkshire bosses insisting they were over-subscribed by local authorities wanting a slice of the pie.
Huddersfield, Leyburn, Redcar and Skipton join regular staging posts Barnsley, Beverley, Halifax and Leeds for a race that runs from Thursday April 30 to Sunday May 3, 2020.
As with last year, the men will race over four days and the women’s race will be contested over two. The exact routes will be revealed on January 17.
The announcement of the towns was a defiant showing from Welcome to Yorkshire following a torrid period. The tourism agency has been struggling to recover from the fallout to the resignation of ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity in March on health grounds, amidst allegations about expenses and bullying.
The private company, which receives millions of pounds of funding per year, would have run out of money and been unable to pay staff in September without taking out a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council which currently has to be repaid by November next year.
But despite the background, the sense is that the Tour de Yorkshire remains a unique tourism showcase and economic opportunity. Last year’s race was watched by 28 million television viewers and generated £60m for the economy.
Leyburn is a debutant host, falling under the jurisdiction of Richmondshire District Council which has hosted Tour de Yorkshire starts and the UCI Road World Championships this year.
Helen Grant, deputy leader of Richmondshire District Council, said: “We recognise the benefits and we have a community that is open-armed to this event.”
Shabir Pandor, leader of Kirkless Council, which is bringing Huddersfield to the stage for the first time, said: “I understand that things happened in the past, but this is about the future and Huddersfield is playing a part in the future.”
The city of Leeds has been involved in cycling from the very start, staging the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France. Six years in, Leeds is a staple of the race’s roster of venues and is likely to be the finish point of the final stage from Halifax, as it has been for the last two years.
Mohammed Rafique of Leeds City Council said: “There was absolutely no concern on our part. Welcome to Yorkshire has done a great job over the years and that legacy in terms of hosting the event will continue for many years to come.”
Local sponsors like the Black Sheep Brewery also remain on board because of the county-wide exposure the race offers.
The 2020 race will form part of the inaugural UCI ProSeries, the rung below the WorldTour.
Peter Dodds, commercial director of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The Tour de Yorkshire has matured in a short space of time. It’s a fixed part of the international calendar. It is a well-oiled machine and as long as the partners and the sponsors are there it will continue.
“Regardless of everything else, the crowds come out and they put money into our economy.”
Bike Libraries to continue
Welcome to Yorkshire are in discussions with potential sponsors about continuing to support the Tour de Yorkshire Bike Libraries initiative.
Aimed at giving people free access to bicycles no matter what their age, ability or location, the Bike Libraries intitiative has been one of the true legacy success stories of the Tour de France.
Yorkshire Bank sponsored it but have since been taken over by Virgin Money.
Peter Dodd of Welcome to Yorkshire said: “We are talking to a number of sponsors about replacing Yorkshire Bank about sponsoring the Bike Libraries. We will have a transformation.”