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World Championships in Harrogate "catalyst for ill feeling", says organiser hoping to revive Tour de Yorkshire

"The 2019 Worlds is an example of too much of a good thing and it created some ill feeling": Robin Scott is trying to get the stage race back on Yorkshire's roads...

If the Tour de Yorkshire is to return to the racing calendar, it will have to overcome ill feeling and concerns about hosting cycling events following the 2019 UCI Road World Championships, hosted in Harrogate.

That is the view of Robin Scott, whose Silicon Dales company last month bought certain assets of the race's former co-organisers Welcome to Yorkshire, which went into administration in March after local authorities pulled the plug on funding.

> Tour de Yorkshire: New hope that race may be back next year

Mr Scott is hoping his Manchester-based company can revive the popular stage race, last held back in 2019 over four stages during the first weekend in May.

However, he acknowledges there is work to be done to convince councils, businesses and the public that their region should be hosting cycling events.

Mr Scott believes much of this "ill feeling" can be traced to the 2019 UCI Road World Championships, which he says was "an example of too much of a good thing" and attracted accusations of damage to the Stray — a 200-acre parkland in the centre of Harrogate which hosted a fan zone during the 11-day event — and complaints from business owners about road closures.

Harrogate Worlds 2019 fan zone mud (credit Simon MacMichael)

"To be honest, I think that event (2019 UCI Road World Championships) was potentially one of the catalysts for some ill feeling," he told The Yorkshire Post.

"The 2019 Worlds I think was an example of too much of a good thing and it created some ill feeling, there wasn't a universal reaction of 'This is brilliant'. Whereas with the Tour de Yorkshire, everyone is super positive about it and it really captures everybody's imagination."


Last year, a social impact evaluation commissioned by British Cycling, Sport England and UK Sport, found that:

There were also some negative consequences of the Road World Championships expressed by host community residents surveyed, particularly in Harrogate, where respondents were critical of the inconvenience and disruption due to the prolonged road closures compared with other host locations such as Doncaster and Leeds.

Another sticking point in Harrogate was the damage caused to a section of the Stray – a protected public area of green space – where the Championship Fan Zone was located.

The event was seen to have had a major disruptive impact on the community in Harrogate, which is illustrated starkly by Harrogate Borough Council's decision to refrain temporarily from hosting major events of this scale.

Mr Scott added there will need to be a change in the way the event's organiser deals with local councils, and admits it "wasn't fair" to ask them to underwrite the event.

"We can bring it in as a packaged event and say to councils, ‘Do you want this in your region?’ We're not going to come around with a pot and say: 'You've got to underwrite this' and that is going to be the big difference," he explained.

"The other thing to consider is the amounts of money involved. It is not crazy money — we are not talking about putting on the Commonwealth Games or even the World Championships that happened in 2019 in Harrogate.

"There is an opportunity. It has been away three years and we can bring it back the same but better. It is the biggest cycling event in the UK, we want to make sure that stays. We also want to make sure all the big teams are in.

Tour de Yorkshire 2019 - Copyright ASO, SWPix.com_

"People have got on their bikes in the last couple of years. We want to encourage that because it is healthy and a great way to see Yorkshire. Success would be the bike race happening in any format."

Chris Lawless, then of the team branded under the Sky banner, was the last winner of the race, and Mr Scott said he hoped any future edition would include an improved women's race and a new U23 women's race.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
1 like

Saw something similar to this with a local event here in the South West. 

For a couple of years, roads were closed on a Sunday afternoon / evening and everyone rejoiced in some fabulous town centre racing. So much so, everyone cried for more, for a bigger event, and the organiser duly bagged a national champs event. 

This meant a weekend of road closures, which in turn led to the locals going bananas and the end of all racing in the town. Event lost, boo!

I think organisers have to be very careful with the 'bigger, better' mantra.

Another examples was the Bristol GP... bigger, bigger, bust, is how I sum that one up. 

paulnettles | 2 years ago

There are loads of places in Yorkshire that this event could be run, if Harrogate don't want it. Go and do it up on the North York moors or something, that would really be something to see!

Simon E | 2 years ago

This seems to be focussed on Nimby reactions and there's no mention of any benefits to the county (and to the wider economy and the status of cycle sport in this country) as a result of the cycling events like the Tour de Yorkshire. Has nothing changed since the Tour de France visited in 2014?

Or is this really about a few people in Harrogate getting uppity about road closures and a muddy field in October 2019?

HarrogateSpa replied to Simon E | 2 years ago
1 like

A significant proportion of Harrogate felt that their fundamental human rights were being violated by the road closures - especially as some were for 9 days, if I remember.

(The same Range Rover set oppose all improvements to cycle infrastructure. They see themselves primarily as motorists, and they want cars prioritised in all situations, even when it's counter-productive as it just results in congestion for everyone).

The 2014 TDF was a success here because it's such an exciting race and it was only a weekend. Many of the UCI races are less high-profile, and the event lasted much longer.

Rik Mayals unde... | 2 years ago

The problem was with many Harrogate residents (Nimbys) who didn't want the event held in Harrogate, and some of their mega expensive houses looked out over the green. My mate lives ten minutes from Harrogate and he said the anti cycling feeling was pretty strong in the town from mainly the well heeled.

Fursty Ferret replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 2 years ago

I agree. It's interesting that when everything was added up, the shops which stayed open and got actively involved did extremely well out of the event. 

The organisers were terribly unlucky with the weather. I also live on the outskirts of Harrogate and I've not seen rain like that since. The number of people who turned out despite this should be a reflection on the fact that there is signficant support for big events in Harrogate.

Having said that there are other towns and cities in Yorkshire that could just as easily cope with such an event - Ripon has the racecourse, for example.

bobbinogs replied to Fursty Ferret | 2 years ago

I think a big part of the issue with the event was the weather, in that it must have had a massive impact on income for all the local businesses, which would then have soured the balance of impact/income. 

We were there (stayed over for a few days) and Sunday was just a complete washout even if a few people did OK.  What should have been a day of celebration with big events and smiles in the sunshine just ended up with very wet/cold 'super fans' who inevitably high tailed it out as soon as the winner crossed the line.  I couldn't blame anyone for that.  We were lucky having a hotel nearby and even then we had to have 2 complete outfit changes during the day just to stay warm. 

Must have been a huge loss for all the traders in the stray commercial zone too as that had to close on the biggest day due to waterlogged field/access points, and I don't think anyone can dispute that the stray really was trashed in a way that normal use would never do.

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