THE immediate legacy of the Le Grand Depart for the Tour de France will be the return of international cycling to Yorkshire from next year.
Backed by the Tour organisers and British Cycling, the three-day Yorkshire festival of cycling will start on May 15 2015 with the road race at its centre yet to be given a name.
Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome To Yorkshire, made the announcement at the Y14 conference at Harrogate International Centre yesterday morning that doubled as the Grand Depart launch, 100 days before the "most prestigious annual event on the sporting calendar" wheels into competitive action in Leeds.
Introduced by host Rob Walker as the "big man who not only has the ideas but also the balls to see them through", Mr Verity said Le Grand Depart's legacy would be threefold: a business legacy, a tourism legacy and a cycling legacy. "We're setting out to make Yorkshire the cycling capital of Europe," he announced, acknowledging that Belgium at present held that crown.
Part of the pledge was to establish the annual road race in Yorkshire, and yesterday a "memorandum of understanding" was signed to that effect . "It will be three days of cycling per year right across Yorkshire with the best cyclists in the world," he promised.
Kirsten England, chief executive of the City of York Council, outlined a second strand of the legacy: Cycle Yorkshire, a ten-year journey designed to promote all manner of cycling in Yorkshire, from competitive events to family bike rides and cycling to meet up with friends. Encouraging everyone to take to bikes as a route to health and happiness, she said: "We think cycling is an elemental life skill and we also want to get more women cycling."
More events and more routes will result from a £30 million investment in cycling in the region, and this boost to cycling will vary from an education pack for children, telling them how to build their own bike, to a Cycle Yorkshire app with a route guide and safety tips.
Yesterday's launch event welcomed a series of guest speakers, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Sheffield Hallam MP; Pierre Yves Thoualt, deputy director of the Tour de France; Bernard Hinault, five-time Tour winner; Brian Robinson, the first Briton to win a Tour stage in 1958; and Yorkshire playwright John Godber. York singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin closed the launch with the first live performance of the official Le Grand Depart song, The Road, with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band.