Organisers of next year’s Grand Départ of the Tour de France believe that the three days the race will spend in Great Britain will further boost the popularity of cycling here – but with a little over six months to go, they are also focusing on security issues to ensure the event passes off smoothly.
The opening two days of the race take place in Yorkshire, with a stage from Leeds to Harrogate followed by one from York to Sheffield. The final day on these shores sees a stage from Cambridge to London.
Sir Rodney Walker, who chairs the company tasked with delivering the event, TDF Hub 2012 Ltd, was quoted in the Guardian ahead of the publication this week of a progress report on the preparations for the Grand Départ.
Between 4 and 5 million people are expected to line the roads that the Tour will ride along during its three-day visit, boosted by continued British success at the highest levels of the sport, including Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome winning the Tour itself in the past two seasons.
While there have been public wranglings over who will pay for the Tour’s visit, the Guardian says that £27 million has been set aside to host the three stages, £10 million of that coming from central government.
The balance will be provided by local authorities, Transport for London and UK Sport, but the Grand Départ is expected to have an overall economic impact of £100 million.
Walker says that the benefits of hosting the race, including money coming into the local authority plus a higher profile for tourism and inward investment as well as an anticipated growth in participation in cycling mean it would be money well spent.
"The reason Welcome to Yorkshire decided to bid was because they saw the potential for showcasing Yorkshire on the world stage,” he said.
“Estimates vary, but we're talking in excess of 1 billion people in terms of the television audience and it will showcase Yorkshire in all its aspects.
"It's also a wonderful opportunity for businesses, in the north and in Cambridge, Essex and London. Right now, the profile of cycling is at an all time high. Part of what we're involved in is discussing with Sport England and other agencies about how we can leave a lasting legacy."
Recent figures from Sport England show that 2 million people in England now regularly cycle, while Welcome to Yorkshire, supported by local authorities such as Leeds City Council, have also outlined in recent months how they hope to use the Tour's visit to get more people in the region using bikes more frequently.
Walker added that organisers are already discussing with police and crime commissioners the security aspects of the race to avoid incidents such as tacks being scattered on the road, as happened during the 2012 Tour de France.
"They have no concerns at this stage but as we get closer they will be intelligence gathering,” he said. “All the people I talk to are excited at the prospect of the event coming to Yorkshire. But you can't legislate for those who hold a different agenda."
Currently, Welcome to Yorkshire and the supermarket operator Asda, which is based in Leeds, are inviting applications from people wanting to volunteer as ‘Tour Makers’ – 10,000 positions are available, with a deadline of New Year’s Eve to apply.
Earlier this month, reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome encouraged people to get involved.
“I’d say to everyone ‘come and become part of it’,” he urged. “The Tour is like a big carnival and this is your chance. It’s really exciting that the race is coming to the UK and to be a part of it will be amazing – it’s your Tour!”
Meanwhile Walker believes that excitement will build as the race gets nearer, saying: "The first six months of next year will be all about the Tour de France."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.