Despite their current financial difficulties, Welcome to Yorkshire has said it’s “a case of when not if” either the Tour de France returns to the county or the Vuelta a España is welcomed for the very first time.
It was recently revealed the tourist board has just 12 months to repay a £500,000 loan that prevented its collapse, but the organisation is focused further ahead on when it will next host a Grand Tour.
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“We are still on course for that big prize [of hosting a Grand Tour],” the commercial director of Welcome to Yorkshire, Peter Dodds, told The Yorkshire Post.
Dodds says talks are ongoing and it is only a matter of time before the race returns to northern England: “The Tour de France has been here once, when will the second time be? We’re still having the conversations and it is still very much a case of when, not if.”
Welcome to Yorkshire is not just focused on the French Grand Tour, however, but its Spanish counterpart the Vuelta a España.
The race has only started outside of Spain on three occasions previously, in Portugal (1997), Netherlands (2009) and France (2017) but will venture abroad for a fourth time in 2020 as the Grand Départ takes place in Utrecht, the Netherlands, where the Tour de France started from in 2015.
“We are still talking to Javier Guillen [the Vuelta a España race director] about the Vuelta,” said Dodds.
Welcome to Yorkshire runs the Tour de Yorkshire British stage race alongside ASO, with the French company also organising both the Tour de France and Vuelta, with the close ties seemingly aiding bringing either race to Britain.
2022 would be the next possible year the Vuelta could make its way to Yorkshire, with the Tour’s earliest return potentially being in 2023, after the 2021 edition will begin in Denmark and have to return to France for 2022.
Dodds says they’re working with a timeframe of around the year 2025: “We’re looking five years, six years, but definitely the conversations are there.”
His confidence stems from the popularity of the Tour de Yorkshire, with the host locations of the 2020 edition announced this week, as the race enters its sixth year.
“We were twice over-subscribed for locations for the Tour de Yorkshire for 2020 and beyond,” Dodds said. “So it’s how you fit these things into the calendar.”
Barnsley, Beverley, Halifax, Skipton and Leeds will be familiar places for riders and fans, but new locations Huddersfield, Leyburn and Redcar will offer up fresh roads.
The privately-run organisation, which has received millions in public funding, was plunged into crisis after an expenses scandal involving CEO Gary Verity, who resigned citing health reasons and admitted he had “made errors of judgement regarding his expenses”.
The findings of an independent investigation identified £26,000 of expenses had been claimed for “personal” items without a business justification. £25,800 of this total were claims related to Verity and the 55-year-old has since voluntarily repaid £25,000 to the organisation.
Accountancy firm BDO, the review’s investigators, were unable to evaluate whether £900,000 worth of expenses claimed over six years were “reasonable” due to a lack of transparent spending rules.