The Tour de France team hailed Ripon as a “beautiful market town” with a “special atmosphere” as the city prepares to host the world’s most famous cycling race in 2014.
Chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Gary Verity and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme popped into Ripon’s historic One Eyed Rat pub on Friday evening for a pint of Yorkshire ale.
After a whistlestop tour of Yorkshire a day after the race’s route was announced on Thursday, January 17, Prudhomme told the Gazette he was struck by the friendly attitude of people in Ripon.
“Everyone has been very warm and welcome. There is a special atmosphere here in Ripon and I am very pleased to see the sense of friendship in Yorkshire,” Prudhomme said.
“It’s just a wonderful atmosphere. I can feel the passion and commitment behind everything and cycling is developing fast in Yorkshire. It’s not just about the champions. It’s about the normal people.”
Verity concurred, saying that the values of the Tour reflect the personalities of Yorkshire people.
“The Tour can bring Yorkshire the values of the race – hard work, dedication, passion and the will to never give up. These are the same as the values of the people of Yorkshire,” he told the Gazette.
“It is one of the ultimate sporting events on the planet. It’s bringing millions of people together and showcasing the area.
“It has given Yorkshire a real buzz. There are plenty of people around the world who do not know Yorkshire, but next summer everyone will know where Yorkshire is.”
Verity, who championed the bid, added that Yorkshire’s breadth of scenery and beauty spots made it the perfect place to host the event.
“We have tremendous variations of scenery, tremendous hills and undulations. We have beautiful market towns and beautiful villages. We have all of the ingredients and the one thing that we have is the Yorkshire people.”
Prudhomme and Verity visited the One Eyed Rat, owned by David and Ruth Hamby, after attending a ceremony in Ripon Cathedral.
They were joined by Leeds City Council’s chief executive Tom Riordan, who has high hopes that local people will flock to see the event pass their home towns and villages.
Hot on the heels of a huge turnout at the Leeds Town Hall launch party celebration on Thursday evening, Riordan said: “2,000 people came to watch in the snow and the cold just to see the route being announced, so imagine what it will be like in July 2014 at the first event.”
Leeds hosts the Grand Depart on July 5, with the stage taking in Masham, West Tanfield, North Stainley, Ripon and South Stainley, before finishing in Harrogate.
Day two of the 101st Tour will set off from York before finishing on a hilly terrain towards Sheffield.
Head of communications at Welcome to Yorkshire, Dee Marshall, told the Gazette: “It is really exciting and it feels as if something really big and great is happening here in Yorkshire.”
Ripon MP Julian Smith is now urging communities and businesses across the city to make the most of the world’s largest annual sporting event.
Mr Smith said: “I am delighted that the Tour de France organisers have recognised the unique beauty of my constituency. I have been working hard to ensure as many parts as possible are showcased.
“With a worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion people in 188 countries, this opportunity to promote where we live to tourists and where we work to businesses is too good to miss. Ripon will benefit massively from this event and will give the Tour de France a great welcome.
“We saw how big the Olympic torch relay was last year but the Tour de France is on a much bigger scale. Each night of the Tour, 1,200 hotel rooms are booked and 2,000 journalists travel with the race along its route.”
Mr Smith will be travelling the route of the Tour on a special Doorstep Tour in coming months.
He also confirmed the launch of a cross-party group to promote and support the Tour de France in Yorkshire at Westminster by chairing the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group for 2014 Yorkshire and UK Tour de France’ with Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland and Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton.
– See this week’s Ripon Gazette for full coverage and photos.