Yorkshire to stage annual Tour race from 2015

Yorkshire looks set to host a three-day cycling race at Europe Tour level from next Spring onwards.

Lizzie Armitstead on the start line in Otley. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Lizzie Armitstead on the start line in Otley. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Tourism board Welcome to Yorkshire and Tour de France organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO), together with the support of British Cycling, have applied to the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to bring a world class race to the county on an annual basis.

The initial deal is understood to be over the next five years.

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The race, known provisionally as the Tour of Yorkshire, will not be in direct competition with the rapidly-developing Tour of Britain, but will sit alongside it in the calendar.

Lizzie Armitstead on the start line in Otley. Picture by Tony Johnson.

If approved, the first Tour of Yorkshire will be held on May 1-3 with the route as yet unknown.

The intention of the organisers is to initially take the race to areas of the county that are not hosting the opening two stages of the Tour de France this weekend.

Hull and Scarborough – overlooked as part of the routes for stages one and two of the 101st Tour de France – are expected to be involved in the first Tour of Yorkshire.

The deal is the first direct consequence of the Tour de France’s staging of the Grand Depart in Leeds.

While it will not have the prestige of a World Tour event, the Tour of Yorkshire will enter at Europe Tour level, the second tier of professional cycling.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said the decision to come back to the White Rose county so quickly owed much to the relationship between ASO and Welcome to Yorkshire, who won the right to host this weekend’s Tour de France Grand Depart.

“It’s a very important relationship,” said Prudhomme, who was in Leeds yesterday afternoon before taking in the Otley races last night.

“It’s important to keep links between people. In France there are cities who have made 250 bids to stage the Tour, but there are other cities that really love the Tour so we go there.

“We might not go back there with the Tour but we go back with other races.

“You enjoy working with these people.

“And I am very, very happy and proud to have this new race in Yorkshire.”

Gary Verity, the man credited with bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire, said: “The Tour of Yorkshire will reach parts of the county we have not been to before.

“It will be a different route every year and we will also incorporate a women’s race into it.

“We want Yorkshire to be the capital of European cycling.

“Having the Grand Depart here this weekend is only the beginning.

“When we bid to host the Tour de France we did so in the knowledge that this would be the start of a long relationship with ASO.”

Jonny Clay, British Cycling’s director of cycle sport, added: “We will await the decision of the UCI but I am confident that ASO and Welcome to Yorkshire will create a world-class event attractive to the best teams in cycling.

“What is more, all three organisations are committed to ensuring the race delivers lasting benefits to cycling by engaging more fans for our great sport and by encouraging people to get active by getting on their bikes.”

A glimpse into what lies ahead this weekend, and beyond, was on offer at the Otley cycle races last night. A crowd in excess of 20,000 crammed into the town as anticipation rises ahead of the weekend’s Grand Depart.

An exemplary event in its own right, the evening began with a crowd-pleasing win for hometown girl Lizzie Armitstead.

Fresh from her solo ride to third place at the British road race championships in Wales last weekend, Armitstead, 25, won the Pinsent Masons Women’s Grand Prix ahead of Paralympic star Dame Sarah Storey, Nicola Juniper and Gabriella Shaw in fourth.

“It really is special to win around here,” said the Olympic silver medallist.

“It’s a great atmosphere, everyone has got behind the Tour de France and I’m really proud of my community.”

The main event, the Otley Grand Prix, was won by Sheffield’s Adam Blythe.

Former winners of this race include Mark Cavendish, who hopes to win a 26th stage of the Tour de France into his mother’s home town of Harrogate on Saturday, and Burley-in-Wharfedale’s Scott Thwaites.

Blythe, 24, riding for NFTO ProCycling, adds his name to that list after coming home in a tight bunch sprint ahead of Yorkshire’s Olympic track star Ed Clancy (RaphaCondor) and Chris Opie.

Blythe, who rode the Giro d’Italia for BMC Racing last year, has been in strong form for the British team with last night’s win setting him up for a strong campaign in the British elite circuit series.