Charge of the lycra brigade: will the Tour de Yorkshire attract more people to cycling?
PhD candidate Transport Studies, University of Leeds
Associate Professor in Geocomputation, University of Leeds
Lecturer in Population Geography, University of Leeds
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Leeds provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
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Competitors in the second Tour de Yorkshire cycling event have begun their three-day route through many of the region’s towns and cities, racing toward the finish line in Scarborough. This event has largely been developed off the back of the success of Le Grand Départ – the opening stages of the Tour de France – which was hosted by Yorkshire in 2014.
Yorkshire’s leg of Le Grand Départ was viewed as a great triumph, generating £128m for the local economy and attracting an estimated 3.6m visitors to the region. It was said that the event would boost the popularity of cycling – and indeed, the sport is undergoing something of a renaissance in the UK.
But up until now, there has been no detailed research on who attended Le Grand Départ – so there was no telling whether the event did reach out to a new audience. Now, we have used a unique dataset to investigate whether Le Grand Départ was attended by all sections of society – or just “the Mamils” (middle-aged men in lycra).
March of the Mamils
Yorkshire has a relatively diverse population, in terms of ethnicity, 7.3% are Asian, 1.5% are black , and in terms of economic profile, pockets of deprivation sit alongside some of the wealthiest areas in the country . If the event was truly inclusive, we might expect these populations to figure more prominently at Le Grand Départ.
Over 4,000 questionnaires were taken over the course of the three opening days of Le Grand Départ in 2014. We analysed these to pull out the basic demographic information of those who attended. Our analysis revealed that the demographic profile of the spectators as a group is skewed: it is more white, male and middle-aged than the national profile.
Over 97% of those who came to the event were white (compared to 86% of the population who reported as white in the 2011 Census ), with the proportion of male spectators slightly over the national average (51% compared with 49%). There was also a clear over-representation of spectators aged 35 to 44 (23% of all spectators compared with 17% of the national population), 45 to 54 (25% compared with 17%) and 55 to 64 (17% compared with 14%). These traits match up with the group popularly known as Mamils.
Even so, we were surprised to find that there was a relatively equal gender split at most locations (bar the “King of the Mountains” sites). According to the National Travel Survey , men cycle more than women: in 2014, men made over three times as many trips by bike as women, with those aged 30 to 49 covering more miles than any other age group. The equal attendance at Le Grand Départ is encouraging, because it shows that events like this may have a role to play in reducing the gender imbalance in the sport.
However, the same cannot be said for other demographics: for instance, the spectator group was less disabled (4%) than the national average (12%). And while this is likely due to a smaller proportion of spectators being over 65-years-old, it could also be attributed to the difficulty of access at many stages of the route. Generally, where the route is least accessible the demography of the spectators is more skewed away from the national average.
This is most prominently seen in the least accessible (and arguably most exciting) “King of the Mountains” sections of the race, usually staged in the most rural areas. Here, the proportion of male spectators jumps to 56%, while the proportion of spectators with disabilities drops to 2%. This does suggest that there may be barriers to access for certain groups in the least accessible places.
This data was combined with a socio-economic classification to draw a clearer picture of the type of person who came to spectate. Again, we found that the composition of spectators for each of the three opening stage of the 2014 Tour de France in Yorkshire is unlike the national average.
Between 79% (stage two) and 83% (stages one and three) of spectators fall within one of the three most affluent categories, while those classified as the most financially comfortable (“affluent achievers”) represent more than twice the national average at stages one and three. There is variation at different sections of the route: the relatively inaccessible “King of the Mountains” sections were primarily attended by “affluent achievers” (39%) and “comfortable communities” (37%), while the least affluent “urban adversity” group only accounted for 1% of the total crowd at these locations.
The positive benefits of hosting large scale events like Le Grand Départ and the Tour de Yorkshire are compelling. Beyond short-term economic benefits and positive publicity for the region, the social capital delivered by these events should not be underestimated – there’s no doubt that they bring communities together in celebration.
But high profile events, which require public expenditure and goodwill to go ahead, should be accessible to all. Evidence suggests that the crowd who turned out for Le Grand Départ was not particularly representative of the wider population. In the interest of fairness – and indeed longer-term justice in our society – we could, and should, do more to ensure that cycling and other major sporting events are accessible for all.
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Tour de Yorkshire to be replaced with new look cycling event in 2024
Tour de Yorkshire not due to return to north of England, although initial plans announced for new cycling event in area
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After a breakdown in negotiations, the hugely successful Tour de Yorkshire event will not be returning to the calendar, but a new race is set to replace it.
The event first ran in 2015, as a legacy from the previous year's Tour de France Grand Depart, in the county. LIke many other events it was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic , but since then has not returned. Past winners of the men’s race include Greg Van Avermaet and Thomas Voeckler.
After the pandemic, talks took place between Silicon Dales (a group which bought the rights to the race) and the owners of the Tour de France, Amaury Sports Organisation.
Both groups looked to continue the partnership which has previously delivered the race, however it has now been revealed that the talks have failed to find a resolution to bring back the event.
This morning, the Yorkshire Post revealed that the organisers of the Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour, SweetSpot, have been part of an agreement in principle to deliver a new race in Yorkshire in 2024.
The two groups plan to deliver a new race in the region to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the popular Grand Depart of the Tour de France in the area. The original Tour de Yorkshire was a four-day race for the men, with a two day event for the women’s equivalent, although the new race is likely to be a one-day classics style race.
According to the Yorkshire Post, it is hoped that the event will be able to carry the same UCI ranking. It is also believed that the new race will include both a men’s and women’s race, both of equal standing. Due to ASO currently owning the Tour de Yorkshire name, organisers of the new race are seeking to create a new name in order to help shape an identity for the event.
Silicon Dales, which gained a number of Welcome to Yorkshire’s assets earlier this year when the company was put into administration, has sought to reform the agency and prepare to deliver other cycling events in Yorkshire. The company have been trading again as Welcome to Yorkshire since earlier this month.
The company’s owner, Robin Scott, told the Yorkshire Post: “We couldn’t have tried any harder to get an agreement with ASO for the Tour de Yorkshire event, but we needed a partner on the delivery side who wanted the event to go ahead in the future. In SweetSpot, who organise the Tour of Britain, we have found a partnership which will be good for Yorkshire.”
The deal with SweetSpot has not been completely finalised and signed off, although it’s likely that any arrangement would also see stages of both the Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour visit Yorkshire in 2023. The Tour of Britain is due to visit Yorkshire in September this year, with stage four taking place between Redcar and Helmsley.
Scott added: “In 2024, we’re hoping to deliver a marquee event for the region which evokes a similar energy to the amazing 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart we remember so fondly.”
On the return of the Tour of Britain to Yorkshire, Hugh Roberts of SweetSpot said:
"We are looking forward to returning to Yorkshire this September for what is going to be one of the toughest stages of this year’s race. The route takes in the beautiful coastline around Whitby and the tough climbs of the North York Moors so it will be great way to return in style!"
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Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly. Since joining the team he has reported from races and events across the world including the Tour de France and World Championships.
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Tour de Yorkshire "in the process of arranging enough financial support" to secure return in 2024
The Tour de Yorkshire was left held in 2019. After being cancelled the last three years, a comeback could be likely later this year with race organizers trying hard to secure funding.
“We are in the process of arranging enough financial support to ensure the event can be as big as before,” Robin Scott, the new owner of Welcome to Yorkshire, the travel agency that previously co-organized the stage race has revealed.
Tao Geoghegan Hart doubles up to take second Tour of the Alps stage win in as many days
Since Chris Lawless 's overall victory in 2019 ahead of Greg van Avermaet and Eddie Dunbar , the race has been in a state of limbo. Scott hopes though that through conversations with the UCI and British Cycling , the Tour de Yorkshire could return to the cycling calendar.
Scott hopes that the race's return will be confirmed by the summer of 2024 as to mark a decade since the Tour de France started in front of a raucous British crowd in the county of Yorkshire.
PREVIEW | Tour of the Alps 2023 stage 3 - Queen stage the ultimate test for Tao Geoghegan Hart
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Lars-Petter Nordhaug wins Tour de Yorkshire for Team Sky
Whatever the terrain Team Sky can steamroll the opposition when they have the bit between their teeth and their powerful riding gave them their sixth stage-race win of the year in the Tour de Yorkshire as the Norwegian Lars-Petter Nordhaug took the overall title with the help of his team-mates Philip Deignan and David López. A leg-rending final stage through the hills west and north of Leeds failed to dislodge the British team with their main rival, BMC, settling for the stage win for the Belgian Ben Hermans.
The key moment came on the last climb, a steep little ascent at Arthington on the outskirts of Leeds with 15km to the finish. Deignan and López controlled the pace within the 21 survivors of the main peloton and BMC – who had earlier attempted to burn off Sky on the Cow and Calf climb above Ilkley – made one last throw of the dice.
Their Spanish sprinter Samuel Sánchez, who had started the stage 10sec behind Nordhaug, attempted to claw back the single time-bonus seconds available at the intermediate sprint, which the race organisers had somewhat sadistically placed at the top of the hill, but the Norwegian proved equal to the challenge. “I needed those seconds, because then no one could get in front at the finish,” said Nordhaug, who knew there were 10 seconds available in Roundhay Park, and that with 11 in hand his position was all the more secure.
That in turn meant the stage win immediately looked a far safer option for BMC than gambling for the overall title – it would have needed Sánchez to win and Nordhaug to be tailed off the back of the group – so Hermans duly hotfooted it for Leeds. The 28-year-old has twice taken the silver medal in his national time trial championship, so it was hardly a big ask, and he made mincemeat of the lone leader, Lawson Craddock of the United States.
The terrain had lent itself to a frontal assault on Sky, with one leg-breaking climb after another. But there simply were not enough teams with the strength to push Sky after the French star Thomas Voeckler’s team-mates all fell by the wayside, leaving only BMC with numbers. Late sorties from local rider Josh Edmondson and the Wirral racer Steve Cummings apart, the rest of the main group were merely hanging on.
The race had been decided on day one when Deignan put the hammer down at Robin Hood’s Bay on Friday, but it did not really detract from a happy sequel to last year’s triumphant Tour de France Grand Départ. The crowds turned out in numbers worthy of the Tour on the main climbs such as Chevin and Goose Eye. The organisers estimated 1.5 million for the three days – immense for the first edition of a new race – which will have strengthened the region’s case as Yorkshire bids to host the world road race championships some time in the next few years.
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“Easier than selling Manchester United, but still not easy”: New Tour de Yorkshire organiser in talks with UCI and British Cycling to make race “as big as it was before”
The recently relaunched tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire’s director Robin Scott says he is currently in talks with the UCI and British Cycling, as he attempts to revive the defunct Tour de Yorkshire races in time for next year’s tenth anniversary of the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in the county.
Scott, the co-founder of Lancashire-based company Silicon Dales – which last year bought all of Welcome to Yorkshire’s assets, including the rights to the men’s and women’s stage races – has told the Yorkshire Post that discussions are ongoing with the two governing bodies and that the organisers are currently working to ensure that there is “enough funded support” for the resurrected event to “be as big as before”.
A 2024 Tour de Yorkshire – though it remains to be seen whether that rather controversial moniker will continue to be used in any case – would mark the first time the races have been held since 2019.
Since then, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, escalating financial challenges, and the collapse of the region’s tourism and inward investment agency Welcome to Yorkshire , after a period mired in scandal, ensured that the race has lain dormant.
> Tour de Yorkshire bites the dust – but a new one-day event may replace it
But Scott, who earlier this year relaunched Welcome to Yorkshire, which ran the race jointly with Tour de France organisers ASO, in partnership with British Cycling, is cautiously optimistic that – despite the current turmoil engulfing the UK racing scene – elite international racing will return to Yorkshire’s roads next year.
“We’re looking to make sure we’ve got enough funded support for the event to be as big as it was before, without having to go to local councils and ask them to dip into their pocket,” he told the Yorkshire Post this week.
“Before we start making announcements or putting firm dates into the calendar, we want to get everything in place to have a successful event.
“But the target has always been 2024, for the ten-year anniversary of the Grand Départ in Yorkshire.”
French hero Thomas Voeckler wins the final stage of the 2016 Tour de Yorkshire in a packed Scarborough (SWPix.com)
Launched, as Scott notes, the year after the region hosted the first two stages of the Tour de France in 2014, the four-day Tour de Yorkshire men’s race, as well as the women’s event – originally a one-day race, but later expanded to two – quickly became one of the most well-supported races in the world, with throngs of fans lining the county’s hills, lanes, and towns to catch a glimpse of the sport’s stars such as race winners Marianne Vos, Greg Van Avermaet, Thomas Voeckler, and Lizzie Deignan.
But misuse of expenses and allegations of bullying against chief executive Sir Gary Verity – who brought the Grand Départ to the region – tarnished Welcome to Yorkshire’s image. He resigned in March 2019, six months before Harrogate hosted the UCI Road Cycling World Championships that he had fought hard to secure and which became intrinsically associated, for all sorts of reasons, with his controversial leadership.
Following Verity’s departure, a number of the local councils throughout Yorkshire that funded the agency withdrew their financial support (with some also openly questioning the value of hosting high-profile cycling events and refusing to fund the Tour de Yorkshire in 2021), and the agency collapsed, entering administration in March 2022 – when it was bought at auction by Silicon Dales.
> Forensic accountants to investigate all Welcome to Yorkshire expenses claims
As we reported last June , Silicon Dales swiftly entered talks with both Tour of Britain and Women’s Tour organisers SweetSpot and the ASO in a bid to revive the race (potentially as a one-day event), though discussions with the Paris-based media and sports events company soon broke down.
While nothing has yet been confirmed concerning SweetSpot’s involvement with the races, ASO owns the rights to the Tour de Yorkshire name, meaning that any resuscitated event would likely have a fresh identity.
“We couldn’t have tried any harder to get agreement with ASO for the Tour de Yorkshire event, but we needed a partner on the delivery side who wanted the event to go ahead in future,” Scott said at the time .
“In 2024, we’re hoping to deliver a marquee event for the region which evokes a similar energy to the amazing 2014 Grand Départ we remember so fondly.”
Scott also hopes that a new-look Tour de Yorkshire will form part of his ambitious plans for Welcome to Yorkshire – which will, at least, retain its old name – to attract people to the historic county.
“We initially considered a rebranding exercise, but it’s relatively expensive and not entirely justified,” he said this week.
“With the name recognition of Welcome to Yorkshire and what they have achieved in the past, the positives outweighed the negatives.”
> How do we save UK bike racing? SweetSpot's PR Director on Women's Tour cancellation and staying positive for the future
Scott’s plans to revive the Tour de Yorkshire will come as a relief for cycling fans, riders, and stakeholders in the UK, after what has been a miserable few months for the domestic racing scene.
The current challenging economic climate, and the pressures it has placed on potential sponsors, has resulted this year in the collapse of several UK-based teams, while also placing strain on race organisers at all levels.
This precarious situation for British bike racing was underlined by last month’s announcement that the Women’s Tour – one of the most important stage races in the women’s international calendar – has been cancelled for 2023 , just weeks after organisers SweetSpot launched a crowdfunder in a bid to save the race, and months after the Tour Series, another SweetSpot event, was also put on temporary hiatus.
As Robin Scott noted on his LinkedIn page today, the British cycling landscape in 2023 means that bringing the Tour de Yorkshire back to life may be “easier than selling Manchester United, but [it’s] still not easy”.
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Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.
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How about 'Bienvenue dans le Yorkshire' as the name of the new agency?
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Interesting to note the possible involvement of British Cycling. I'm not sure how involved they were with the Tour de Yorkshire - other than originally objecting to the event going from a three day to a four day jobby. I was always of the impression that BC were a bit sniffy because the crowds, routes and coverage were better than those of their own Tour of Britain. Dunno, but it would be great to see the Tour de Yorkshire - or whatever they decide to call it - return next year.
I think British Cycling have to sign off on any UCI road race event held in the UK, so their involvement is kind of only regulatory to begin with at least, they may or may not want to get more involved with it.
But the fundamental issue with the TdY is it lost money every year they ran it, regardless of the crowds or the coverage, so how do they crack that nut ? in a landscape where there are no major sponsors or donors willing to step up.
Quote: Scott, the co-founder of Lancashire-based company Silicon Dales
My white rose friends are not going to be happy with that!
It's not exactly Lancashire based, seeing as they're in Manchester. If hes a Lanky lad, you would think he would try to resurrect the Tour of Lancashire, won by some tasty riders in the past including a certain Chris Boardman, John Tanner, Chris Newton and Malcolm Elliott.
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Ireland pulls bid to host Tour de France Grand Depart
An island of Ireland bid to host the Tour de France Grand Depart in either 2026 or 2027 has been withdrawn.
Former Irish Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports and Media, Catherine Martin, and former NI Economy Minister Gordon Lyons, had submitted an expression of interest in the formal bidding process to the Tour organisers.
Current Irish Minister Thomas Byrne has confirmed that a Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland co-bid has been shelved however because of a lack of a functioning government at Stormont.
Ireland last hosted Le Grand Depart, the first leg of the Tour de France, in 1998.
"The Tour de France is the biggest cycling race in the world and, during 2022, Minister Martin engaged with her counterpart in Northern Ireland, the then-Minister for the Economy, regarding a potential joint bid to co-host the opening three stages of the race, the Grand Depart," said Byrne in a written answer to a question during a debate in the Dail.
"Departmental officials engaged with counterparts in Northern Ireland and established a project group to scope out the details of a possible bid.
"In July 2023 the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland wrote to my Department to advise that it had decided to cease work on the potential for a joint bid.
"As any hosting bid was envisaged as a north-south all-island initiative my Department is no longer pursuing a bid and this has been communicated to the event organisers.
"Should the opportunity arise again to consider a bid to host the Grand Depart, whether jointly or singly, the experience gained in the process outlined above will be of use to any such future consideration."