Yorkshire keen to host Vuelta and Tour de France in next six years
Welcome to Yorkshire is pushing ahead with bids to host the Vuelta a Espana and bring the Tour de France back to the region and believes both races could be staged there in the next six years.
The organisation's commercial director Peter Dodd said the county's commitment to cycling was undimmed following the recent resignation of chief executive Sir Gary Verity, who was credited with bringing the Grand Depart of the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014.
Vuelta's director Charles Ojalvo attended day two of the Tour de Yorkshire, where police figures suggested crowds of about two million lined the roadsides over four days despite rain, hail and even sleet battering the race.
"He enjoyed the Yorkshire weather," Dodd joked. "It's an ongoing conversation to bring the Vuelta here and it's our belief it's a case of when the Tour comes back to Yorkshire, not if. Our ambition would be to host the Vuelta and for the Tour de France to follow shortly, both within five to six years.
"There is an amazing desire with our public sector partners for the Vuelta to come to Yorkshire and for the Tour de France to come back to Yorkshire. That has not changed."
Verity resigned on health grounds in March with investigations now ongoing into both his personal expenses and allegations of a bullying culture within the organisation.
That led many councils to suspend funding for Welcome to Yorkshire while investigating how the money was spent, but Dodd insisted there was no lack of enthusiasm from local authorities wishing to be part of the Tour de Yorkshire, a legacy event of the Grand Depart.
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"As I've travelled around Yorkshire, various chief executives have said to me, 'You do know I'm down for a stage start or a stage finish, don't you?'" he said.
"We're over-subscribed. We had 16 potential starts and finishes for 2019, off the top of my head we've probably got at least 14 for next year and one or two for 2021."
Dodd said Welcome to Yorkshire has a rolling agreement to stage the Tour de Yorkshire with the Amaury Sports Organisation, the owners of the Tour de France, and that he hoped to confirm their commitment for the next several years in the coming months.
"We are committed on paper until 2020 or 2021 but we will probably announce, hopefully later this year, a new contract to take us further forward," he said.
The Tour de Yorkshire has made a point of pushing its women's race, introducing equal prize money two years ago and expanding it to a two-day race last year, using the same routes in full as stages of the men's race run on the same day.
Dodd said operational practicalities meant there would be no imminent expansion of either race in terms of stages, but said the organisation remains "ambitious" regarding the development of both.