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Almost five million-strong crowd turned out for Tour de France Grand Depart

Yorkshire was biggest beneficiary, says report

Crowds totalling almost five million people turned out to watch the Tour de France in its three days in England this July, according to a new report detailing the effect of bringing the Grand Depart to Yorkshire, Cambridge, Essex and London.

According to Three Inspirational Days the three stages of the race brought in £128 million for the host areas.

Yorkshire was the biggest beneficiary of the Tour's visit. The region landed a £102 million economic boost, but Cambridge, Essex and London were £30.5 million better off too. (The numbers don't add up, the report says, because  adjustments have been made for spectators moving between regions.)

It's a similar story for spectator numbers. Yorkshire folk turned out in their droves: one in four saw the race in person, making up a total crowd of 3.5 million over the two days. In Cambridge Essex and London the total was 1.5 million, but only 0.6 million in London itself. That stage was on a Monday, of course, when people were at work.

Because lots of people watched from more than one point, or saw more than one stage, the total number of individuals who saw the race is lower than the overall crowd number, but it's still a fairly staggering 3.5 million people.

The report admits that crowd numbers over such a large event are hard to measure, but its figures roughly correspond with the National Omnibus Survey, which found 3.1 million people said they watched the race in person.

The total crowd of 4.8 million amounts to four people per metre of roadside along the 546.5km route, which seems plausible given sparse crowds in some areas and the way others were absolutely rammed.

The Grand Depart could not have taken place without the support of communities along the route and the 13,000 marshals and stewards who looked after the crowds.

You were probably out of luck if you wanted to hire crowd barriers in early July. The Tour used 100km of of barriers and fencing to hold back the crowds as the race passed through towns and cities, and at the starts and finishes.

Many academics have pooh-poohed claims that large sporting events inspire people to become more active, but the study claims the Grand Depart had a significant effect in inspiring people to ride more.

It says that 63% of the 3.5 million unique spectators (2.2 million people) spectators felt inspired to take part in sport more often than they normally do as a result of watching the race, especially younger people (aged 16-24), 72% of whom were inspired to get more active.

The post-event survey suggested as many as 30% of spectators (almost a million people) have increased the amount of cycling they do.

The Grand Depart didn't just attract people from within the UK. There were 113,000 visitors from outside the UK, and they had a disproportionate economic impact, spending £36 million over the three days.

Some of the reports claims are perhaps a bit optimistic. London Mayor Boris Johnson's plans to spend £913 million on cycling infrastructure gets a mention, as does the outdoor velodrome being built in York; it's a bit of a stretch to claim the Grand Depart had an influence on those.

Chief executive of Welcome To Yorkshire, Gary Verity, who led the county's bid to secure the event, said: "We're absolutely delighted the event brought so much money to the county to help businesses big and small, and there are benefits for the county which are impossible to measure - the profile of Yorkshire around the world has never been higher and this will have a lasting impact on visitor numbers and businesses for years and years to come."

British Cycling applauded the success of the Grand Depart too. British Cycling president Bob Howden said: “The Tour de France coming to this country provided some unforgettable scenes of the great British public taking cycling to their hearts. It was magical to see the inspiration of the Tour with millions of people lining the streets and millions more watching live.

“Today, it is clear that the event has made a significant and powerful impact on the sporting landscape of this country. Our role at British Cycling is to make sure that anyone who wants to cycle can do so and I’m very proud that we have been able to engage so many newcomers to the sport this summer."

Over 95,000 people took part in British Cycling registered events in the regions touched by the Tour de France; total participation across all British Cycling’s recreational programmes increased by 64% in 2014.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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