Cycling chiefs and campaigners today backed calls for the city to bid for the World Cycling Championships and give our region a hat-trick of global sporting crowns.
Welcome to Yorkshire boss Gary Verity said the triple-accolade dream could become a reality after the overwhelming success of the weekend’s Tour de Yorkshire event.
The three day race followed on from last year’s Grand Depart of the Tour de France, and attracted 1.5 million people to the roadsides.
“We would love to have the World Cycling Championships here in Yorkshire,” said Mr Verity. “It’s an obvious thing. The world championships I think would love to come to Yorkshire after what you’ve seen over the last few days, one and a half million people out for the first edition of a new race.
“You see much smaller crowds at other events so why wouldn’t you want to come here? We have all the ingredients.”
Campaigners have also thrown their backing behind the idea of Leeds bidding to become an international cycling capital.
The council’s ‘cycling champion’ Roger Harington backed the calls for the annual world tournament to be held in Leeds in the near future, saying it would be a “fantastic” coup for the city.
Mr Harington, who is working with a council committee to ensure the Tour de France has a lasting legacy, said: “It would be fantastic to see the cycling world championships come to Leeds, but I am also very keen to make the city cycling safe.”
In order to pursue his dream, Mr Verity must first persuade British Cycling to bid for the championships, and also persuade it that Yorkshire is the region to focus on.
He revealed he has had some discussions with the national governing body, but there is no timetable yet in place for them to go to the next stage.
This weekend’s race was organised by ASO, the company behind the Tour de France, as a direct legacy of the Grand Depart.
Director Christian Prudhomme said he was blown away by the crowds:
“I hoped to see many people but you always have a question mark,” Mr Prudhomme said. “Is it possible to get so many people again as the Grand Depart? I was thrilled when we were in the car climbing some of the hills, it was unbelievable.”
One of the big draws this year was having Sir Bradley Wiggins in the field, although the 2012 Tour de France winner was in effect on a lap of honour as he wound down his road racing career to focus on the track.
The success of the event could well attract an even stronger field next year, but it remains to be seen if the absolute elite will soon be here for a world championships.
Mr Prudhomme added: “Yorkshire is made for cycling, not only cycling for champions, but cycling for everyone.”
Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: “The event was a great success: such spectator numbers are very rare in cycling events other than the Tour de France, let alone new ones.
“The combination of Welcome to Yorkshire, ASO, the Yorkshire councils, the police and the brilliant volunteers again worked wonders to pull off a memorable event.
“The people of Leeds were the stars of the finish at Roundhay, recreating the carnival atmosphere of last July and even the sun uncannily came out with perfect timing again.”