The sixth edition of the Tour de Yorkshire in the spring could be the last unless the race proves it can be a sustainable business model moving forward, its organisers have warned.
The contract to organise the showpiece cycle race between the Welcome to Yorkshire tourism board and the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) expires after the 2020 Tour de Yorkshire, which begins in Beverley on April 30 and concludes in Leeds on May 3.
For five years the legacy race of the county’s staging of the 2014 Tour de France has grown exponentially, and served as a huge advert for the region as well as a conduit to bring communities together.
But Welcome to Yorkshire’s new chief executive, James Mason, has called this year’s race a “pivotal” one as he looks to usher the tourism agency into a more financially frugal era following the previous administration, led by Sir Gary Verity, who nurtured the relationship with ASO that led to the region’s cycling boom.
For his part, ASO’s director Christian Prudhomme expressed a willingness for the race to continue beyond 2020, but is mindful of making a commitment due to the sport’s ongoing reliance on sponsors.
Mr Mason said: “This is a huge, pivotal moment for the Tour de Yorkshire. We’re conscious that a lot of people aren’t for cycling necessarily, so this is an opportunity for us to prove that cycling has a future in Yorkshire as a mass participation event, for all our members and stakeholders and all the people who have a vested interest in promoting Yorkshire to the world.
“That’s what it’s done successfully in the past. We’ve now got to make sure it can continue this time around. Anything that promotes Yorkshire, through sport, mass participation, its geography, heritage, history and the people to a wider audience is something we’ve got to consider and if that stacks up across the board, for local authorities, our members both private and public, and the wider community, it’s something we’ve got to consider.
“There’s got to be a business case for it, a goodwill case, a platform for other projects. It’s got to return across the board. We’ve got to listen to all our stakeholders. It’s got to work for all of them.”
Mr Mason met with Mr Prudhomme on Thursday night ahead of yesterday’s route reveal in Leeds and confirmed that “positive conversations about taking it forward” had commenced.
Mr Mason added: “I’m fully behind making this work because we want cycling to have a strong future as part of Welcome to Yorkshire. I think it has and we’ll prove that.”
Asked if he could see a future without the Tour de Yorkshire in it, Mr Prudhomme said: “I can’t imagine that. It will be so strange, not just for cycling but the pride of people from Yorkshire for their race. But it’s important to have sponsors, it’s important to have a balance.
“Cycling is popular because you don’t have to pay to be on Buttertubs or on the Tourmalet.
“That’s very nice, but there is no money, so we need to have that balance. But we will work together with James Mason’s team.”
On top of the Tour de Yorkshire uncertainty, the likelihood of the Tour de France returning to Yorkshire this decade suffered a setback.
Conversations between ASO chief Christian Prudhomme and previous Welcome to Yorkshire supremo Sir Gary Verity about bringing the Tour de France back following the hugely successfuly 2014 staging of the Grand Depart, had taken place before the tourism agency was plunged into crisis.
Mr Prudhomme said yesterday that competition to host the Tour de France had become more intense, in part because of Yorkshire’s successful staging.
Mr Mason added: “The Tour de France is one of the big ticket events, can we bring something as big as that again in the future? Why not? But let’s have a little think first.”