What’s going to secure success for the Tour de Yorkshire this summer? Beer, fish and chips and stunning landscapes of course.
That’s according to Andy Denton, head of media for the enormous event, who spoke to us about how Yorkshire managed to overcome scepticism about its suitability to host the Grand Depart, and how the county intends to put on the biggest Tour ever seen on British soil.
“The initial reaction was one of local pride and national surprise,” said Andy.
“We bid because we wanted to change perceptions of Yorkshire, we had seen how the mindset of Manchester had changed after it had hosted a hugely successful Commonwealth Games in 2002 and we wanted a moment like that; a moment tor aise the profile and the confidence of our county.
“The Tour was a perfect fit for us. The characteristics of the champions of the Tour fit perfectly with the characteristics of Yorkshire, they have passion, they have confidence and they have determination not to give in.
“The Tour too is about the landscape as much as the riders and we knew we had a backdrop that would do justice to the race and so we pulled together a core team to lead on the bid.
It wasn’t always easy to convince the world though, despite the small organising team’s indomitable confidence from the start.
“In Liege the press pack was sceptical about Yorkshire¹s chances against the other bidding cities but by Paris they knew there was a confidence about our bid that made us serious contenders,” Andy said.
“We never doubted it but there was some work to do during that Tour to change perceptions.”
Part of the success of the bid has come from the enormous shift in the popularity of road cycling in the UK in recent years - something the team has worked hard to make use of.
Andy said: “The landscape of cycling has shifted dramatically in favour of Britain since 2007 so I am expecting Yorkshire¹s Grand Départ and the third stage fromCambridge to London to be even bigger than anything anyone has seen before.
“One of the strengths of the bid was the Back le Bid campaign we launched, it received over 130,000 pledges of public support so at those times when there was little we could officially say, there was a daily conversation and positivity about our bid through social media which gave us a momentum the other competing places lacked.
And the public interest hasn’t waned in the slightest, particularly on the Tour de Yorkshire website.. Andy said: “In terms of the digital demand alone we were previously experiencing around 7.5m page views a year, since we have won the right to host the Tour that has jumped to nearly 13m page views a year.
“The international media story has been the most interesting. Internationally, people know where London is and where Edinburgh is, our journey is helping to place a third dot exactly midway between those points to illustrate where Yorkshire is.
“Yorkshire¹s cycling heritage has led the narrative of that story giving the county cycling credibility internationally, but the landscape of Yorkshire too has become a feature of their pieces especially for those who have come and ridden part of the routes.
“Those who have experienced theroutes first hand then make comparisons to Liège-Bastogne-Liège which strengthens Yorkshire¹s cycling credibility once more.
“Food and drink is also an interesting angle for the international media so local beer, local cheese and local fish and chips have all played their part.”
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.