CITIES, towns and villages across Yorkshire were celebrating their inclusion on the route of the 2014 Grand Depart yesterday (Thursday, January 17). Ashley Barnard spoke to businesses and residents in the Yorkshire Dales town of Leyburn.
THE delights of cycling in the Dales are no secret to the many two-wheeled visitors who come to the area every year seeking dramatic scenery, tough climbs, and a warm welcome.
Next year's visit of the world's largest cycling event to Yorkshire will see thousands of spectators, journalists and athletes descend on remote villages and market towns - bringing a much needed economic boost.
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In Leyburn yesterday there was a definite buzz among business owners hoping to benefit from the Tour - and huge praise for Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity for his work to bring it to the Dales.
Cycling enthusiast and owner of Leyburn Bikes Jonathan Sunter said he felt like Christmas had come around again.
“It is really exciting – this whole area is just fantastic for cycling and will be great preparation for the riders ahead of the main stages in France,” he said.
“I have lived in this area all my life so know a lot of the possible routes they could take very well, but one of the steepest climbs is at the Buttertubs Pass - between Swaledale and Wensleydale – and is really tough.”
Mr Sunter acknowledged that route-makers had been spoilt for choice with beautiful landscapes across the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
“I’m glad they chose the Dales, it will be absolutely fantastic for trade because there will be such a build up, and hopefully people will see what a great place for cycling this is and keep coming back.”
His mood was reflected in the town centre, where traders are already starting to prepare for an onslaught of cycling fans for the first stage of the Grand Depart, which will see riders push through the heart of the Dales, covering Asygarth, Hawes, Reeth, and Leyburn, before heading south to Ripon and Harrogate.
Gerald Hodgson, founder of Leyburn Cycling Group, said he had offered the services of the club as marshals for the event, and said he hoped the news would increase his club’s numbers in the run-up to the Depart.
He said: “This location is ideal, and it was such a glorious day when organisers came to view the route in June I think it persuaded them to choose the Dales.”
Leyburn vicar Michael Hepper and his French wife Gisele said their loyalties would be split when the tour arrives.
Mrs Hepper said: “In France it really is huge, if people do not go to follow it they watch it on television – it is surprising but very exciting that it is coming here.”
Some people called for Mr Verity to receive a knighthood for his work in promoting the area, and all agreed the tourism boost would bring the town a new lease of life.
Brian Carlisle from JR Hopper estate agents said: “Gary Verity deserves his own yellow jersey – he has done such a fantastic job of promoting the county.
"It will be a real carnival atmosphere here. This event will be Yorkshire’s Olympic Games.”