Tour de Yorkshire: The county in love with cycling

Tour de Yorkshire 2015, Haworth Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption Millions of people lined the streets of Yorkshire to witness the 2014 Tour de France and 2015 Tour de Yorkshire

An estimated 2.3m people watched the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France in Yorkshire while a further 1.5m turned out for the inaugural Tour De Yorkshire the following year. But, as the region prepares once again to welcome some of world's top riders BBC News asks, is Yorkshire still in the grip of cycling fever?

Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption The 2015 Tour de Yorkshire saw more than 140 riders compete over three stages taking in towns and cities including Wakefield, Leeds, Selby, York, Scarborough and Whitby

The second Tour de Yorkshire begins on Friday and stage two will finish on Saturday in Doncaster. The town's Wheelers Cycling Club is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2016 and president Martin Maltby is in no doubt the club could not be in ruder health.

Since launching its junior Go-Ride section in 2014 membership for under 16s has rocketed from a handful of children with parents in the club to more than 30. Adult membership has also risen from about 100 to 150.

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"Memberships have grown year on year since 2014," said Mr Maltby.

"As a result of the Go-Ride programme we've got six qualified Level 2 coaches, before the Grand Depart (the Tour de France opening) we did not have one.

"One of the main things that's come from the Grand Depart is the Doncaster Cycle Festival. We started that in 2014 and last year we had 450 entrants."

Yorkshire's cycling fever in numbers

  • 3.8m spectators at the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire

  • £152m combined economic benefit to Yorkshire from both events

  • 11,914 cycling club members in Yorkshire as of March 2016

  • £50,000 prize fund for 2016 Tour de Yorkshire

Welcome to Yorkshire

Mr Maltby, who also runs Don Valley Cycles, in Doncaster - where stage two of the Tour de Yorkshire will finish on Saturday - said trade in bikes also continued to be good.

He said: "I can see it from two different perspectives, not just the club but the retail side, and it's even more noticeable through the shop the amount of new faces coming in. There was a big spike after the Tour de France.

"The type of bikes that we sell more of now has changed too. Before 2014 it was a 70-30 split between off-road bikes and road bikes but now it's close to the opposite."

He will have a keen eye on the race this weekend with pro-riders Graham Briggs and Tom Stewart having passed through the Wheelers on their way to bigger things.

"There's always been a hotbed of cycling in the Doncaster area and I would like to think that can continue," he said.

Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption Sport England figures show there were 18,000 more cyclists in Yorkshire in December 2015 than the previous year
Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption Plans to host an annual Tour de Yorkshire event were first announced in September 2014

His experiences at the club and in the shop are reflected across the region.

According to Sport England figures released in December 2015, Yorkshire now has the second highest percentage of its population cycling at least once a week in England, up from seventh the year before.

The research also showed there are 18,000 more cyclists in Yorkshire compared to December 2014's figures.

The increase in popularity has led to councils investing heavily in cycling.

For example, East Riding of Yorkshire Council - where day one of this weekend's race will culminate - has invested more than £8m in developing or improving facilities for cyclists in recent years.

In Wakefield the council is investing £4m in cycleways to connect Castleford, Wakefield, Knottingley and Pontefract and has hosted the Pontefract Cycle Festival since 2014.

In Calderdale more than £600,000 has been spent, including £12,000 on developing cycle tourism, and £300,000 on a cycle circuit to provide for training, coaching and racing for schools and local cycling clubs.

Leeds City Council has spent £26m on creating a cycling "superhighway" between Leeds and Bradford, with funding coming from a range of sources, including local authorities and the Departments for Transport and Health.

Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption Olympic champion and Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins was among those to compete in last year's race
Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption The number of club cyclists in Yorkshire has risen from 9,239 to 11,914 in four years, according to British Cycling

The benefits of cycling's stranglehold on Yorkshire are also being felt in the regional economy.

Marketing organisation Welcome to Yorkshire say the Tour de France generated more than £102m for the region while the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire brought in £50m.

Sir Gary Verity, chief executive, said: "When Yorkshire hosted the undisputed "Grandest of Grand Départs" in 2014 the county became really inspired and excited about cycling.

"The economic impact of the race benefited businesses both big and small and raised the profile of Yorkshire across the world."

Mark Allum, recreation and tourism manager for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and a keen cyclist himself, said: "The number of people coming through has grown and grown.

"Businesses are also telling us they have seen a big growth, including a growth of people coming from overseas and that's very much as a result of the Tour de France.

"One company, which offers motorbike tours around the Dales, has done about 200 trips around Stage One of the Tour de France."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Since Stage One of the Tour de France in 2014 took cyclists through the Yorkshire Dales hundreds of amateurs have headed to the area to test themselves

Mike Allenby and his partner Helen Pollard opened Stage 1 Cycles and the FireBox Cafe in Hawes two days before the Tour de France peloton swept through the North Yorkshire town.

Since opening the couple have given up their careers in plumbing and teaching and relocated to bigger premises.

Mr Allenby said: "We've invested quite heavily in the business and we had to be sure that it was going to work and all the signs so far are saying 'Yes, it is going to work.'

"There's a lot of people dragging old things out of the garages and barns to bring to us saying 'Can you make this work?'

"For a long time people have seen the bike as a bit of a punishment for when the car is not working, but now with the publicity it's getting, people are getting in to it and really enjoying it."

Now, with the Tour de Yorkshire a permanent fixture on the cycling calendar it would appear Yorkshire is set to continue falling in love over and over again with the sport.

Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption The Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire brought an estimated combined economic benefit of £152m to the region
Image copyright Welcome to Yorkshire
Image caption Councils across Yorkshire have invested millions of pounds in cycling as a result of the success of the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire

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