Tour de Yorkshire can ride to rescue after lockdown, says Pete Williams

THOUGH this year’s event was called off, home rider Pete Williams believes coronavirus has placed added importance on future editions of the Tour de Yorkshire.

Monday, 25th May 2020, 9:26 am
Yorkshire cyclist Pete Williams. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The 2020 race was due to be the last under the current contract between tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire and co-organisers Amaury Sports Organisation.

In January, new Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason warned this would be a “pivotal” year for the event, insisting it must “prove its worth” for the entire county.

That prospect was shattered in March when the race was postponed.

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Pete Williams was awarded the Dimension Data Most Aggresive rider jersey after Tour de Yorkshire, Stage 3. Picture Bruce Rollinson

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Though there were hopes it could be rescheduled for later in 2020, the sixth edition is now expected to take place next year.

Usually staged over four days in late April/early May, the 2021 version could be at the vanguard of the county’s fightback from the devastating impact of Covid-19 and Williams, a four-time Tour de Yorkshire finisher, has made a passionate defence of its importance to the Broad Acres.

“The tourism industry has been hit massively,” said Williams, who lives in Skipton and rides for Yorkshire team SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling.

“The Tour de Yorkshire brings so much revenue in, I have seen some ridiculous figures of the impact it has.

“I would like to think it has its value and I would love to see it happen again.”

Welcome to Yorkshire’s financial problems, alongside the departure of previous head Sir Gary Verity, have been behind much of the uncertainty over the race’s future.

Williams conceded: “In life nothing is certain forever, things always get reviewed, but with the impact it can have on the local economy you would struggle to justify not doing it.

“Obviously everything has opposition and there are other things out there, but I think professional cycling offers a massive return on investment compared to other events and sports, so I would like to think it can continue.”

As the county’s only UCI Continental team, Swift Carbon were harder hit than most by the loss of the 2020 race, after cycling’s entire calendar was suspended.

“It is a bizarre situation, but there are things bigger than sport, I guess,” added Williams.

“At SwiftCarbon, we were meant to go out to Taiwan in March, but gave that a miss and went to Belgium instead.

“The following week everything shut down, so you do all your pre-season preparation, all the hard work, then obviously the racing stops.

“The Tour de Yorkshire didn’t happen and the Tour of Britain has been postponed to next year so the two big events, the ones that wet the appetite, get pulled,” he said.

“They are big reasons why sponsors invest in the team, it is a worrying time.”

Williams conceded: “It is always tricky to make a living out of sport – and cycling in particular – and it has had an impact.

“Our budget has been cut, but they are still trying to support the team.

“We are lucky with that and hopefully next year will happen and we can build on it, but there is a lot of uncertainty.

“We don’t know what is going to happen, but we can only be optimistic there will be some normality by next year.”

Unlike riders in some countries abroad, Williams has been allowed to train outdoors, but admitted not having a target to aim at is a challenge.

He said: “I am, ironically, struggling with a bit of an injury so it is allowing me a bit of breathing space to get that sorted.

“It is difficult with motivation because it is the races that get you out of the door, but you know you need to keep in decent shape long-term.

“Not knowing when you are next racing is the difficult thing; we could be racing this year, but it might be next year.

“There’s also the stress of not knowing what’s going to happen financially to your sponsors.

“These are uncertain times, but it is the same for everyone in many walks of life.”

At 33, Williams is already beginning to look towards the next stage of his life.

He confirmed: “In recent times I have been trying to diversify a little bit away from the racing, looking ahead post-racing career, but in an ideal world I would love to keep racing if the opportunities are there.”

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