Fans hit out at £45-85 cost of traditionally free event; race director Prudhomme sees Leeds show as "template" for the future...

Organisers of the Tour de France Grand Départ in Yorkshire were yesterday forced to defend themselves against accusations of setting “outrageous” ticket prices for the team presentation in Leeds two days before the race begins – with the cost ranging from £45 to £85 for the event at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on Thursday 3 July.

Many fans directed their anger at the Le Tour Yorkshire Twitter feed, which responded throughout the day by pointing out that the event was being staged on a not-for-profit basis, that it would be on an unprecedented scale including as yet unspecified live acts, and that the venue was being provided free of charge.

Here’s one exchange:

Some queried why the presentation was not being held in a public, outdoor space such as the city’s Jubilee Square, where more people would be able to watch it – and for free, as usually happens, including last year when teams were introduced to fans at the harbour of the Corsican town of Porto-Vecchio, and in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2007.

With what will be the 101st edition of the race approaching, as far as road.cc is aware there is a precedent of sorts for people being charged to attend a Tour de France team presentation.

That came three years ago, when it was held at a mock Gallo-Roman amphitheatre at the Puy du Fou theme park in France’s Vendée region; road.cc understands that while there was no separate charge to get into the arena itself, spectators did have to pay the park's 30 euro entrance charge.

Philip McDonald, sociology of sport lecturer at Leeds Trinity University, said that the ticket process for July’s event were “outrageous”.

He told the Yorkshire Post: “These events are traditionally free. With the exception of the one in 2011 they do not charge people for these things.

“It does seem otherwise free events are being priced out of the range of the majority of families,” he added.

In a press release yesterday, Le Tour Yorkshire said that the team presentation was on an unprecedented scale and it would be the first time the riders had been accompanied by live entertainment, with details of artists taking part to be revealed over the coming weeks.

The event is being overseen by Martin Green, who as head of ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympic Games helped deliver the opening and closing ceremonies.

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity, who has described the event as a chance to “be part of a once-in-a-lifetime event for our county,” told the Yorkshire Post: “This is a not-for-profit event and ticket revenue will fund the event and help ensure that we deliver the biggest team presentation ceremony ever.

ASO sees the event as a blueprint for future editions of the Tour, although it's unclear whether that's in terms of the size of it, or charging people to attend, or both.

If the latter, that could mean that those who were lucky enough to be in Porto-Vecchio in July last year will be the last to have seen the riders introduced without having to pay.

Race director Christian Prudhomme said that July’s presentation “will be a first for the Tour and we hope it will become a template for team presentations in the future. It shows how much passion there is for cycling in the UK and Yorkshire’s Grand Départ.”

Pre-registration is now closed and tickets will go on sale on Friday at 9am.

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.